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 ossan 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.
▼ We double-checked to see if there were costumes we could add to our cart for him to dress up in, but unfortunately there was no such option. Yet.
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.
▼ How would we even find him? Would we have to listen for the guy telling lame dad-jokes?
▼ Or would we have to watch for a teenage girl crossing her arms and going “daaaaaaaad, you’re embarrassing me” every five seconds?
▼ “Excuse me, handsome passerby. Have you seen a rental ossan around here at all?”
▼ “Oh! It’s you. Why, I’d swear you were far more of a niisan than an ossan.”
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 ossan rental service in 2012, Nishimoto said that he’s had a total of 1,502 people rent him out to date! Apparently 60 percent 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 of ossan rental 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.
The next time you’re in Tokyo, make a reservation on his website, and see what hanging out with the most experienced ossan in Tokyo can be like.