The most accessed story of the day on Yahoo! Japan was the news that a Tokyo entrepreneur has started a “Rent-a-Man” service, where clients can rent a man, described as an “ossan” or “middle-aged man” for just 1000 yen [approx $9] per hour.
Most of the people who use the service are female, but there is a good base of male clients too. The men can be rented to do anything from being a shy guy’s wingman at a strip club to assembling furniture for an old lady.
But netizens share some disquiet about the service, saying that it could be dangerous for people to get involved in. The journalist who wrote the article also shares his doubts about why these men seek to be relied upon by those outside of their immediate family and friends.
What do you think? Would you rent a man for $9/hour? You can check out the website here.
From Sankei Shimbun:
Rent-a-Man: The Surprising Popular ‘Secret’ That Costs 1000 Yen Per Hour, Useful For All Kinds Of Things
The unusual “Rent-a-Man”, where you can rent a man in his 30s-60s for 1000 yen per hour, is rapidly gaining popularity. You can search for a man to rent from the 60 member registered on the homepage, and then buy his time using a credit card. Once you’ve paid, you decide where to meet via messaging. Depending on the person, there are those who get these men to assemble furniture or do other work that requires strength, but for the most part people just want to talk while drinking tea. They are also used to accompany people to places they don’t want to go alone. So I decided to get one of these men to accompany me to a maid cafe in Akihabara, which is a place I’d find it difficult to go – even with friends (Murashima Yuki).
The man I selected from the website as Ando Masahiro (38). Under the name “Arano no masabo”, Ando stated: “I love walking around eating and drinking! I know lots of hiding places and out of the way places! I’m ok with tea, karaoke, leisure. I have experience with restaurants, brothels, nightlife. I won’t work with people who don’t like to learn new things or who don’t have aspirations. If you’re someone who wants to have more confidence in yourself, then I’ll help help as much as I can!”. We arrange to meet on a Saturday afternoon, near the station, and head to a maid cafe.
It’s the first time either of us have been to a maid cafe, so we go in and look around, curiously, our hearts pounding when we catch the eye of one of the cute maids. The tables right in the center of the cafe are the “sacred ground” of men who come alone — not the kind of place you go to mix with others. Seeing as we’ve come together, we’re relieved when we’re guided to seats at the back of the cafe.
The maid tells us how to use the cafe, and then it’s tea time. For just over an hour, we talk about what manga we like, and what Ando’s experience of rental has been so far. Then I pay for our tea. I hand over 1000 yen to Ando, as well as his travel expenses to Akihabara – 500 yen.
This might seem cheap, or it might seem expensive – people will have different opinions. Ando registered in November last year, and tells me he has been rented by around 10 different people. 7 of these were women, 3 were men. One woman in her 20s consulted Ando on her career choices. She’d quit working at a bank in her hometown, where she’d been working for ten years, and had started living alone in Tokyo, but her parents weren’t happy with her choice. Another housewife in her early 30s was having problems after discovering her husband had a brothel’s calling-card. A male university student asked: “I want you to teach me how to be confident. I have social anxiety and no confidence in myself”. He became close with each of these while talking to them, and got messages of thanks and positive reviews. Ando tells me: “I’m always careful with money, but that 1000 yen I earn on the rentals — I’m even more careful with that. I know the value of money, but it just makes me so happy that I can be useful to someone”.
Still, why did Ando register on the rental site in the first place? Ando is a man of power and resourcefulness, who’d been involved in the opening of clubs and brothels, and comes across as the confident type who will sail through life. I imagine that most of the people who hire him are serious people, and when they meet someone like Ando, who’s the type of person they probably don’t have in their life, it must be pretty exciting for them.
When I pry into Ando’s daily life, he tells me he basically doesn’t like profound relationships with others. He married at 32, and has a four year old daughter, but got divorced in November last year because he’d lost his freedom, and didn’t like being managed.
“I’m just not good at deep relationships, basically I’d rather not have them. I prefer relationships with no obstacles, no obligations”.
I became a bit fed up with listening to this. Without thinking, a started lecturing Ando: “Hang on a second! Rather than use energy listening to the problems of complete strangers, wouldn’t it be better for you to focus more on the people close to you, like your wife and daughter?”
It seems all too convenient that Ando doesn’t like troublesome relationships with others, yet he wants to be depended upon, and wants to feel useful. Immediately after we met, he asked me several times: “Why did you pick me?”. I wonder if he meant to say “If you could have picked anyone, this isn’t really worth my time”? For Ando, being a Rent-a-Man is probably a way of confirming his own existence.
Fashion producer Nishimoto Takanobu, who runs the site, told me that he started “Rent-a-Man” four years ago. He overheard a conversation between some high-school girls while on the train, who were saying “Older men just preach at you, and they’re disgusting to look at”. So Nishimoto started a service to “show people men’s good points”. Over the course of a year, the site gets 400 requests, but in May last year he started to recruit men other than himself to join, and currently has 60 registered members. It costs 10,000 yen to join the site, and 10,000 yen per month for member subscription. This means it costs 130,000 yen per year, so virtually none of the men who have joined are in it for the money. Instead, they work as volunteers to help people in need.
This year the site had around 900 requests, and there are only three complaints: “He was late”; “Let’s talk right to the end today” – from someone who was requesting an extension; and “When we met up, I got asked about what I was wearing”. For the most part, the number of clients is growing steadily.
Nishimoto explained: “Why do men register with us? Well, it’s probably because they all wanted to be thanked for something. A lot of people have read my book and fall for me”. About 70% – 80% of users are female. They are generally women in their late thirties who want to talk about love and relationships. “A lot of people just want me to listen to them. You don’t know the other person at all, so sometimes it makes it easier to talk”.
Still, despite the fact that Nishimoto has a wife and a child in elementary school, he barely ever eats dinner at home. “Next up I’m meeting a woman for driving practice. I’m risking my life for this stuff”. When I hear him joking like that, I also lose my temper with him.
I could feel the words rising in my throat: “Get home to your wife and child! Your wife is probably crying right now!”. But I managed to keep it in.
In the future, Nishimoto plans to recruit members from the regions, and has plans to extend the service throughout Japan. 1,000 yen per hour. Just as with letting travelers stay at your house or ride-sharing services that match people who want to go somewhere to drivers, Rent-a-Man might be seen as another type of sharing economy, where people put their unused resources to good use. There is definitely a need on the part of users, who want someone to learn from who is confident in their identity and who has plenty of experience, or people who need some encouragement.
The thing is, from the perspective of those who are renting out their time and ability, I think it might be more valuable if they were there for their families, loved ones, and friends…Simply put, I feel an unease which is difficult to express at this mysterious service, in which people rely on and are relied upon by others.
Comments from Yahoo! Japan:
Sort of feels like not everyone on the site is going to be a good guy. Feels a bit dangerous.
They might be calling it Rent-a-Man or whatever, but this isn’t really any different from those dating sites. Right now things might be going well, but it probably won’t be long before you start seeing about incidents on the news.
Hmm, sort of feels like anything goes, seems a bit complicated.
They say 70% of clients are women, some in their twenties…
I bet some of those guys have an ulterior motive, think they might get lucky.
“He married at 32, and has a four year old daughter, but got divorced in November last year because he’d lost his freedom, and didn’t like being managed.”
We don’t need that bastard.
I do wonder if these guys are from the yutori generation, but actually I think this is a good service which is well-thought through and a sign of the times. Having said that, I wouldn’t think about using it (笑) There will of course be issues with personal information and people should watch out for their personal safety, particularly since we live in times where nothing shocks us anymore. It would be true to say it’s scary.
The only thing I got from this is that the manager’s gonna be making easy money.
I’m 32. Is 32 old now?
Lost the will to carry on reading this.
Is there a demand for this stuff?
I don’t suppose the guys registered on the site could be doing this full-time, and besides not knowing when someone is going to call them, as well as the times you’re going to be taken being ambiguous, it’s also probably pretty difficult to do as a second job.
Feels like there’s going be a crime committed before long.
Is there going to be a Rent-a-Lady too?
I guess they know people’s backgrounds, huh.
I would never ask someone I didn’t know to come to my house and assemble furniture. That’s really frightening.
Something smells fishy.
May just be 1000 yen, but rather than paying some guy who doesn’t give a shit about his family, it’s probably better to put the money in a charity box.
Where’d they get all this free time from (*_*)
My first thought was that the manager’s got a pretty profitable gig going there, but there must be problems about who takes responsibility when there’s trouble with a client. There must be a lot of difficulties with this.
Dude got married of his own free will, he has a 4 year old daughter.
Oh but he’s not free and he doesn’t like being managed, so he got divorced.
Ummm, definitely not the kind of guy I’d pay for advice.
Not sure I understand where this is going.
There’s not much comment about the content of the service provided, it’s preachy, I mean, what is the writer trying to say???
Feels dangerous to me for young women to be renting men.
I reckon it would be much easier to use Rent-a-Lady.
Probably these people want to commit adultery, but don’t have the balls for it
But if they’re a rent-a-man it’s “work”, so they boldly go off and meet other women. Right?
That manager’s raking it in.