JAPAN: Of Men & Matches

Atami, on Japan's southeast coast, is one of the loveliest resort towns in the world. The mountains tumble abruptly down to Atami's yellow beach, and at this time of year the wistaria blooms in purple luxuriance on the walls of inns and cottages that cling to Atami's hillsides.

All was peaceful in Atami one afternoon last week. Visitors were pausing along the white Tokyo road notched in the pine-covered sea cliffs to take in the view. Aiko Nagai, a plump geisha, was landscaping her elaborate hairdo in preparation for the evening's entertainment. Heiji...