lifestyle

We try Tokyo’s 'rent a middle-aged Japanese man' service

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By Scott Wilson, RocketNews24

You can rent pretty much anything in Japan. Even people, it would seem.

With so many people working long hours and not having the time to devote to cultivating real relationships, it’s just easier to hand over some cash and pay someone to act as your boyfriend, girlfriend, or just a friend to hang out with for the day.

But what about when you’re looking for something different? What if you’re in need of life advice that only a middle-aged Japanese man can provide? Well that’s where the "ossan" (middle-aged/old) rental service comes in.

The idea of hanging out with a 47-year-old Japanese dude and getting sagely wisdom while getting coffee together was so intriguing we had to try it for ourselves.

The first step in renting our "ossan" was, of course, going to the rental website. There you can rent Takanobu Nishimoto, a 47-year-old fashion producer/stylist. He has worked in Japan and the U.S., in all kinds of places from department store salons to being the executive producer for a major stylist company, and he’s even written a relationship advice column for women at one point.

But now, he just works as a professional "ossan" – a service that he started all by himself, and is currently the only man available to be rented.

The ordering process was as simple as purchasing anything else online: we added Nishimoto to our cart, selected the time we wanted to meet, and then checked out; that’s all there was to it.

The day of our rental, we met Nishimoto-san at the Ebisu train station in Shinjuku, Tokyo. We’d seen his picture online, but still weren’t sure what to expect in real life.

Since we were budget-conscious, we had only one hour to enjoy with Nishimoto-san, so we went straight to a cafe, sat down for some drinks, and got right down to business. Right off the bat, we asked him why he got into this line of work. “One day I was on the train and some girls nearby me went ‘Ugh, what a gross 'ossan,'” he said. “So I decided to embrace my 'ossan-ness' and do this.”

Now those same girls are paying him by the hour for relationship advice. Justice?

When we asked how many clients he’d had since starting his rental service in 2012, Nishimoto said that he’s had a total of 1,502 people rent him out to date. Apparently 60% of them are repeat customers, who are basically just Nishimoto-san fans at this point and can’t get enough of him.

We were also interested in what he and his clients typically did together during rental sessions. Unsurprisingly, it usually wasn’t too different from what we were doing with him: hanging out at a cafe or bar, chatting, drinking, or getting life advice over lunch.

But, he did say he’d had some pretty unusual requests: being rented out to visit sick people in the hospital he didn’t know, or to announce one woman’s marriage to her family since her father had been looking forward to doing it but had passed away before he could. Of course, he’s had requests for other less innocent things, but he has a strict “no touching” policy that is made clear from the get-go, so don’t get any wrong ideas about what this handsome middle-aged man is prepared to do.

Before we knew it, our hour was up. We couldn’t believe how fast the time went by – Nishimoto-san was just so suave and charming. Before we said goodbye though, he let us know that he’s planning on expanding his "ossan" rental business and has recently hired two new "ossans" (out of over 100 applicants!) who will be available for rent soon on his website. Which is also the place where you can buy his book: "Diary of a Rental Ossan." For just the price of one hour with Nishimoto-san, you can get years worth of his experience.

With over 1,500 clients under his belt, and at only 1,000 yen an hour, Nishimoto-san is a bargain hidden away in the typically overpriced Tokyo. Whether you need a tour guide, some social support, a bit of relationship advice, or just someone to suggest a new style for your hair, he’s got you covered.

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Sorry, studs, you’re just too handsome for your own good -- You’re probably not as genki as this old lady -- The “doya-gao” phenomenon and where you’re most likely to see it

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Sounds like great work if you can get it. Good for him.

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I used to work in an 1000Y an hour cafe in which you'd get some mind-numblingly boring people from time to time. Wasn't worth it. This guy might want to consider raising his price, or at least ask transportation fees...that is, considering how many Japanese dota-kyan.

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