Rent-a-stranger: A Japanese man is running a successful business

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If you have ever heard your parents and friends complain about your complacency or the listlessness with which you navigate your days without any particular goal or perspective, you aren’t the only one. A 38-year-old Japanese man, Shoji Morimoto, had also heard the same complaints since childhood. However, instead of fighting the stereotype of being a ‘do-nothing’ kind of person, he has embraced it wholeheartedly and is now running a successful business by being a ‘do-nothing’ rent-a-man.

If you are new to the concept of ‘do-nothing’ rent-a-man it is because Morimoto came up with it in 2018, when he started a Twitter page to offer his services – or rather the lack of it — to people. Morimoto’s business philosophy is that he would rent himself out (which basically means he would give his time) to anyone who pays for it. However, he won’t do anything during that time. He won’t proactively initiate conversations or try to please anyone. “I lend myself out to do nothing, which means I don’t make any special effort…I don’t initiate conversation. I reply to chitchat, but that’s it.” he told CBS News.

In the last four years of running this service, the Japanese man has received his fair share of absurd requests, despite explicitly stating that he wants to continue to ‘do nothing’. He was asked to be a friend, do laundry, visit a haunted house and even pose nude, but he has politely declined the offers because so far he has received huge success by just being himself, and doing nothing.

Morimoto has discovered that doing nothing can also be an act of kindness sometimes. He has stood in cold weather to be an audience of a struggling street musician, and has, over the years, been silent companions to those who are acutely self-conscious to go out alone. He had accompanied them to shopping trips, and in the cafes and sat and witnessed a lonely soul blow out birthday candles.

He doesn’t charge much for his services, just the cab fares and meals (if it is lunch or dinner time), but he goes to approximately three such ‘assignments’ each day, and over the years Mr. Rental has built up a steady clientele. He has also authored four books, including a manga comic, which talks about what he does when he meets ‘clients’ for coffee or outings.

The concept of rent-a-man who is of a ‘do-nothing’ sort is new, but Morimoto has found success because in a country like Japan loneliness of citizens is a major concern. In 2020, Japan reported a rise in suicides for the first time in 11 years, prompting the government to appoint a ‘Minister of Loneliness to tackle the issue. Mr. Rental’s success has also inspired many copycats, but he remains unfazed. Morimoto, with his quarter of a million followers on social media, and a fictionalized series based on his life on Amazon Prime is way ahead in this game.

Marimoto has also been a knight in shining armor for many Japanese women in the past years. One particular client of his, he recalls, just wants to meet and drink coffee in silence. Mr. Rental says that Japanese women are very self-conscious of how they are perceived, therefore, they put the onus on themselves to always act in a polite and pleasing way, which does not allow them a safe space to just be themselves. However, when they are with him, they don’t have to worry about that. They can just be themselves in silence.

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