lifestyle

Lonely or in need of female assistance? Try a rental friend

48 Comments
By Rona Moon

For a guy, it can be difficult to get along without female friends.

In Japan, work ethic and subsequent exhaustion tends to tie many men to their work places beyond the call of duty, and gender roles can be highly restrictive. If you’re a single man who is not socially confident, how do you get enough positive human interaction? We all need to tell someone about our troubles, and yarn about the day-to-day minutiae that friends and family share.

Maybe you want to go out to a nice restaurant… but how can you go alone? Maybe you have relationship difficulties and want to confide in someone. Maybe you need help with your computer, or organizing your stuff, or career counselling. Everyone needs a female friend… and in eastern Japan, Client Partners KK is one company which offers a rent-a-friend service. Billed as “women-only odd-jobbers” ("josei dake no benriya"), the services they offer do not include anything untoward. In the commodification of today’s world, “rental friend” should come as no surprise. What is surprising is just how much this kind of human contact benefits lonely people.

How much does it cost?

It differs depending on the service and staff member, but basically there’s an outcall fee of 3,000 yen plus about 3,000 yen per hour.

What kind of service can you expect?

A recent article in the Asahi Shimbun gave a rundown of one customer’s experience: a 35-year-old single man from northern Kanto who uses the rent-a-friend service once a month. Let’s call him Kenji.

Kenji travels into Tokyo to meet his rental female friend at 11am at their customary meeting spot, in front of a clothing store in Harajuku. Having said their hellos, they make their way to legendary nerd wonderland Akihabara.

Kenji is a fan of pro-wrestling, so they browse through the aisles of masks and T-shirts. He’s embarrassed and diffident, but before long is opening up about troubles in his life. She draws him out and shows genuine empathy for his mother who is in hospital, and all the other concerns he has been shouldering alone each day.

They have curry for lunch, and continue shopping. When it starts to rain, he shelters her with his umbrella. At 7 p.m., they part ways, and Kenji passes his rental friend about 31,000 yen in cash.

Kenji first got in touch with Client Partners last year, after seeing their ads on TV. He was going through a difficult time — his partner had broken up with him the year before, and he didn’t want the relationship to end. He couldn’t stop himself calling and going round to her place, and was given a warning by the police. In the midst of his trouble and heartache, the rental friend service proved to be a lifeline. Having the chance to speak with a kind and caring listener and trying new things like billiards and darts helped him not to obsess over the past.

Most days, Kenji wakes up at 6.30 a.m. to go to the factory and interact with machines all day. He would get home at about 8 p.m., and had nothing to do but sleep. With a schedule like that, making friends is difficult. You might be thinking, why doesn’t he go to a bar to try to meet people? Well, Kenji doesn’t drink, and he doesn’t have a naturally sociable disposition.

A sea change has come over him since he started using the rental friend service. Initially he didn’t like the idea of paying someone to be a companion, but he soon realized how valuable a change of scene and good conversation has been to his mental health. Even his workmates have noticed that he’s not as irritable as he used to be.

At the end of the day, everyone needs a friend, and rent-a-friend services have become increasingly available worldwide. One website, RentAFriend.com has over 500,000 friends for rent in different countries.

Source: Asahi Shimbun Digital

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Japan’s “Rent-a-Boyfriend” Dispatch Service -- Japanese women share their best and worst gifts from boyfriends -- What Japanese Women Discreetly Check Out When on a Hunt for a Husband

© RocketNews24

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.


48 Comments
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Better than counselling therapy, more fun, and cheaper for the hours. Nothing wrong with this if it helps people and stays straightforward.

I'm sure there are drawbacks and risks - what if the client forms an inappropriate attachment to the partner? There must be strict rules in place in the contract.

But as it stands, it's companionship to get someone through a very low point in their lives.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

pizzatime:

No, it is not that easy for Kenji. Firstly, he doesn´t have much time to hang out in bars, and secondly, he is probably socially awkward and not good at nampa. Don´t project your own talents onto others. I think this friend service serves a useful purpose. Although for that price tag, I would probably prefer to call a "delivery health" service.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

I wonder about the safety aspect here - lets hope half these " rental friends " don't end up being stalked by their friendless clientele. For the women, financially it sure beats working at a conbini part time job - get paid 3 man yen for hanging around Akihabara with " Kenji " and as sensei mentioned above plenty of chances to earn more by going the extra step. Outside the parameters of their " rent a friend " contract of course.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

This is no worse than a "cuddle cafe."

And Japan's policymakers wonder why their country in is demographic decline.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

This is just like the "compensated dating" story a while back. If "friends" decide to engage in "adult activities" they could claim it was outside the parameters of the contract and therefore not subject to prostitution charges.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Log into mix Join a sports club, its good for your health Participate in their weekly events and meet new people Save the 30000 yen
3 ( +6 / -3 )

This seems kind of pathetic, but maybe for most people it's harmless. Still, I wonder if this is an aid that will help socialize Kenji, or if this is a crutch that will further prolong his already delayed social development. I really don't know.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

QUICK ! Where do I sign up ???

3 ( +3 / -0 )

This isn't going to do anything for social anxiety if people don't know what social skills even are

3 ( +3 / -0 )

in this case a very positive thing!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Those stalkers we here about so much lately ... I think that if they used these services where they can just pay money and know what to expect before they become involved with a girl, they might have avoided becoming murderers.

And to be honest, I've used one of these companies three or four times, not this particular one though. Due to my particular situation (my work just kills all regular social time) it is a bit difficult to meet people, so I gave it a try and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The two girls I met were great, proper ladies with real conversation ability and fairly good looking too. Have had a few great afternoons with them, and will do it again.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I paid for a girl to spend time with me when I was in Japan. I went into a massage parlour and paid the girl 6000 Yen to talk with me for 45 minutes. I told her I dont want a massage (I dont like massages), but I just felt I wanted to talk and I had 4 hours to kill before I was to meet my girlfriend. When I met my girlfriend afterward, I was less frustrated when around her, as a result. So, it was worth it. In Toronto, I have paid about 30 women to spend time with me. I think it is cheaper than traditional dating and relationships.

You clearly went to a place where you knew that you would find people capable of listening with empathy, and understanding your needs and concerns. I would say "admirable", except the fact that you need to pay people to listen to you might just be a slight cause for concern.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Among higher end prostitutes, customers commonly just take them to dinner, keep them around as a companion, and don't sleep with them. Sometimes companions are just that.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

When I was single and lonely, I'd read.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Actually, I got to know a girl who works for "delivery health" (escort service) privately, and she told me that surprisingly there are some clients who are happy just to have nice company and chat for an hour or two. They don´t even bother about the sex part. So, absolutely, there is a market for this, and some people pay more than Kenji does. The pickup artists among us may look down on the users, but not everybody is like them.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

At first I thought "woah, how pathetic the Japanese have become" but then I remembered that today we have more and more nerdy guys, and among them there are people with extreme social anxiety, the stereotype shown in "the big bang theory" is more common nowadays, if you don't recognize it, here are more hints that there are more and more people with social interaction problems:

The increasing number of TV shows with at least 1 character with this behavior The increasing number of comic-anime-manga-superhero conventions The culture of collecting something like a "professional" level, posters, cards, toys, videogames, etc. for that they don't need to get out of the house. The incredible number of "wikis" about superheros, kamen rider, anime, asian drama, cult films, sci-fi films. Before, there were a couple of fan pages made by one or few guys in their homes communicating via internet, today it is a "wiki" trying to compile all the knowledge of the topic at hand, an encyclopedia for the topic... The increaing worshiping of the idols and characters, that project something and made the fan to admire "from afar".

I remember watching a j-drama called Q10, there were more of such characters, but i will mention the girl who liked idols and discovers that her classmate with a certain haircut could look like just one of her idols, she just liked them and she was happy with taking pictures with her classmate who looked like this idol, never attempting to pursue a relationship with either the idol or her classmate, she even asked for her classmate to keep her "obsession" a secret. Now, I know this is only a character, but i doubt if that kind of personality is purely fictional.

And for those that say: "go to a Starbucks, invite someone for coffee", "play sports". etc, they don't know what they are talking about, because they don't know what does it mean to be socially awkward, or the anxiety that people suffer, or people being so shy... and for those more adult people the time that requires to do that, with long working hours you cannot go to a bar or a cafe to add stress to your life if you are already shy, true, it is not the end of the world if you get rejected when asking someone for coffee or movies, but for these people it is a terrifying experience that adds to the anxiety...

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Honestly I can't understand how you cannot meet a woman to talk to and in some cases enter a relationship with, but if it works, so be it. This beats the 'sleep beside a woman for 6000 yen an hour' or whatever it was. If it helps people let off some steam and feel good, and they have the cash, so be it. No one can judge them for it so long as the service is honest.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Renting a friend is only a temporary fix to what is a real problem with socialization and social anxiety. Instead of renting a friend, these people need to get themselves to a counselor and get to the root of their problem. One day they will wake up feeling empty, and realize that they have only been ignoring the hole in their lives. You can't live your whole life renting friends. The only way to solve your problems is to face them.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Wow. I'd be somebody's friend for that kind of money. But, shoot, if it makes you happy and doesn't hurt anybody, why not? It's his money, he can do what he wants!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Umm isn't this what most English teachers here get paid to do? When I taught English half my clients were serious the other half just wanted to talk and me to counsel them.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Sad that a service like this is needed, but if it helps people then I'm all for it.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The pickup artists among us may look down on the users, but not everybody is like them.

Yes, going by some posts this message board seems to be 90% full of Adonis-like studs who can pull women just with a glance.

I don't see 'Kenji' as a pathetic loser though - socially awkward perhaps, but he isn't so shy that he can't go out with a woman. Some guys can't even talk to women, or turn into jelly. As a service I can't see much harm with it, but I still think there is a danger that a nutjob can easily book a date. I hope they have a system of checks.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

One of the earlier posters is right -invest in therapy. Paying money for a fantasy only encourages an even broader gulf from reality.

There's nothing wrong with psychotherapy. Truthfully the best decision I ever made, and something that all those with social anxiety and othee mental issues should consider. Just gotta make it more available, and take away the stigma tha keeps people from going.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

And for those that say: "go to a Starbucks, invite someone for coffee", "play sports". etc, they don't know what they are talking about, because they don't know what does it mean to be socially awkward,

Agree entirely. But just to clarify, people who sit next to you in starbucks and start talking unannounced are actually socially awkward. I think the correct term is annoying!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

pizzatime - lol

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I have no doubt that some idiot is going to try to use this like a prostitution service, but the fact that they have older women and women with children suggests that that kind of thing wouldn't be tolerated. I can't help but still find many aspects of this sexist (why only women? why not a dude for guys to hang out with?), but can understand how a normal person with extreme social anxiety could find this very useful. I guess it all depends on how this is being carried out in practice.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Wonder what the service's confidentiality rules are. Hey ya never know when something might slip out.............. ;-)

Or these guys could just say, talk to the woman next to them on the train, ask her out and pay for everything there - would be cheaper and plenty of women out there who would love a free meal.

Wonder what the strikeout rate for that. What if ya need one right now, how reliable could that be, heheheh.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This is pathetic.

Guys, this all you have to do. Go to Starbucks. Spend 300 yen on coffee. Sit next to girl. Comment on her jelly donut. You have a friend for life.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

How about joining some activity group like Meetup, with like minded people. Oh wait! That would be like trying to develop real friendship, where you have to listen to other peoples problems too. It is not exclusively about "You" the narcissist!!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

This seems no different than many dating services that have been around forever. Just a different name...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It's the women I'm concerned about... any nutter could ask for a friend and then... well, it doesn't take much imagination to think about the consequences.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Kenji isn't a 'loser' at all. He's in a pickle and he's doing something about it.

I imagine that after doing this for a while, his mojo will be restored and he'll find himself able to get the same level of attention from girls that he doesn't have to pay.

What an excellent service.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

wow, great idea!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think there is an opening for some to open a self help group to help these people that don't have or lost the essential skills to intereact with other people with working silly long hours, In fact he ought to change to a job so that you don't have to work 24 hours a day for peanuts!!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@ex-japan-visitor

$375 per romantic encounter? $1000?! No offense intended, but what kind of women are you dating?

I think I've paid for a few of my lady's meals, but they've never even been close to $100...maybe 50 at the most. Most of the time we go dutch. The only exception was a Disney trip + one night in a hotel suite...but even then, I didn't have the money so she paid at the time. And it was her birthday!

Girls that insistent on guys paying can take a hike, IMO. I certainly don't leech off of mine, or expect her to pay for me, but she does know that I have limitations.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@ex-japan-visitor

Friendly reminder that your date is under no obligation to reward you for being nice. If rewards are all you care about in a relationship, then I think you need to reevaluate your priorities with other human beings. Communication is a healthy way to establish what you're looking for in a relationship, how you would like things to go (paying for dates, splitting the costs evenly, etc), and putting all the blame on the women in your life reveals a lot about you.

Just saying.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Looks like Kenji needs to get a life!

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Man... that Kenji guy must be the saddest *** person I've read about in a while.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

The soushoku epidemic is ruining the very foundation of this country - and we only have the Japanese media to blame (thanks Johnny's!).

Men strive to be like them (effeminists on TV), women wish men were more like them. I'm deeply concerned for the future generations.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

This seems like innocent fun to me.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

So these are basically mobile hostess'

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

If somebody can't make a girlfriend in a normal way and become desperate to fulfill his desire even temporarily, here is the option. In other words being too harsh, for loosers.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

I paid for a girl to spend time with me when I was in Japan. I went into a massage parlour and paid the girl 6000 Yen to talk with me for 45 minutes. I told her I dont want a massage (I dont like massages), but I just felt I wanted to talk and I had 4 hours to kill before I was to meet my girlfriend. When I met my girlfriend afterward, I was less frustrated when around her, as a result. So, it was worth it.

In Toronto, I have paid about 30 women to spend time with me. I think it is cheaper than traditional dating and relationships.

-3 ( +6 / -9 )

just go to a bar. buy drinks for a bunch of girls. easy. Victims everywhere.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

Just another pseudo escort service in disguise ;)

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

JoiceRojo,

Men are more interested in paying a woman for companionship because 'regular' women have made dating more expensive, recently. When anything increases in cost, people will look for alternatives.

In general, if I were to court a 'regular' woman, I would have to take her out on 5 - 7 dates, pay for everything, contact her regularly, but not too much as that might cause her concern, try to be in tune with all her needs, desires and feelings, and even then, it is unlikely that I would be rewarded, not even just sexually speaking.

If you pay a woman up front, things are pretty much guaranteed. And in the end, it is often less expensive - time and money, resources etc - than traditional dating. My last girlfriend cost me about $375 per romantic encounter and about $125 per social encounter, so to rent-a-woman actually would have been a better investment. I wish this wasnt the case, but sadly, unless a man is quite handsome, he will often run into this scenario.

My ex-wife cost me over $200,000 over the 12 years I was married to her. Per romantic encounter, she cost me close to $1000, and although my social interaction with her was every day, it was miserable as she would constantly badger me about everything.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Or these guys could just say, talk to the woman next to them on the train, ask her out and pay for everything there - would be cheaper and plenty of women out there who would love a free meal. I find it sad that men - and women - are willing to pay for someone to spend time with them. Perhaps someone could start a Facebook group for lonely Japanese who are willing to hangout for free.

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

ex-japan-visitor:

A man after my own heart. I once dated a girl for a couple of months (before she turned into a high quality, two year girlfriend). She didn't want to go all the way for a while, so I had to use similar services to "take the edge off," so to speak, after our dates.

That way, I was able to relax, focus on the conversation, and not let my sexual frustration get the best of me.

Of course, I'm not sure if these girls would offer this kind of service, but it's a healthy sign of a well functioning capitalist society, where you can can rent a friend if you need one.

-9 ( +1 / -10 )

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