Japan’s People-Rental Service

New people-hiring service to help middle-aged men in Japan regain their masculinity

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A growing number of people-rental businesses are emerging to provide a wide range of random and unexpected jobs for anyone who finds themselves in need.

One such service connects middle-aged men with younger people who are in need of advice from an unconnected person with relevant life experience. These ‘ossan’, the Japanese name for older men, offer advice and other services in fitting with their life experiences and professional expertize.

Evolving status of middle-aged men

Takanobu Nishimoto set up Ossan Rental in 2012 after he overheard some high school girls speaking disrespectfully about older men. He hoped that in providing this service, ossan in Japan could claim back some of the respect they had lost. Once a male-dominated society, the economic crisis saw many middle-aged men laid off from their jobs thus losing their position as providers.

The Ossan Rental website currently hosts almost 80 ossan in 36 cities across Japan. Around 10,000 meetings take place each year between ossan and their clients.

Relationships are very ‘give-and-take’ in nature so asking for a favor of someone immediately puts you in a position of obligation

Areas of expertize vary from engineering and real estate to marketing and management. People can also hire someone who has gone through a divorce or depression who can offer advice and help them get through the difficult times.

Nishimoto started by offering the service himself for three years before expanding to provide his clients with more ossan choice. Some services included helping a woman choose an outfit for meeting her estranged son to joining someone for a game of chess. Others hire ossan to move furniture or to give lessons in their field of knowledge.

The service only offers face-to-face meetings, and only after Nishimoto has carefully vetted the ossan who apply to work for him.

The people-rental market is not limited to men

Another company, Support One, was set up by Megumi Furukawa. She established her company after receiving some unusual requests from her customers when she operated an eyelash extension salon. One woman asked her to pretend to be her work supervisor so that her parents didn’t find out she actually worked as a hostess.

Furukawa’s company now receives about 100 applications every month and she vets all applicants very carefully. Around 80% of her staff is female and staff, as well as client, safety is of the utmost importance. Meetings in private places are prohibited so if a client wants a cleaning service in their homes they are asked to pay for two staff members.

The range of services Support One provides is endless. The list includes anything from cleaning, cooking and dog-walking to website design and advice on setting up a company.

Why only a stranger will do

Masahiro Yamada, a professor of family sociology at Chuo University, suggests that the need for such people-rental services has arisen as a result of relationship requirements in Japan. Relationships are very ‘give-and-take’ in nature so asking for a favor of someone immediately puts you in a position of obligation. You must either owe the person who helped you a favor in return or a gift by way of a thank you. It can be much easier to hire someone to do whatever it is you need done, thus, freeing you from any sense of indebtedness.

Today’s “otsumami” – a bite size snack:

Business ideas can grow from the most unconventional beginnings to fulfill needs people didn’t even realize they had. 

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Written by Catherine McGuinness

Writer and journalist with a love for all things Japan.

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