Meet Japan’s Busy “Do Nothing Rent-a-Man”

Tokyo – During his 38 years, Shoji Morimoto had grown used to having his family, classmates and colleagues tell him he was a ‘do nothing’ – the kind of guy who took a step back and let go. others take the initiative.

So after college and commuting from one daunting job to another, he finally decided that if the shoe fit him, why not wear it. In 2018, out of a job, on a whim, the self-proclaimed slacker opened a Twitter account under the nickname “Rent a Man Nothing” and began offering his shy company – but not a drop of fairness – to the world. .

“I lend myself to doing nothing, which means I don’t make any special effort,” he told CBS News as he sat in a local park between concerts. He schedules up to three dates almost every day. “I don’t initiate the conversation. I respond to the chatter, but that’s it.”

He declined requests for help cleaning homes, “being a friend,” doing laundry, making sparkling jokes, visiting a haunted house, and posing nude. But he stood in the freezing cold to be the audience of a struggling street musician, accompanied the painfully embarrassed people on outings to shops and restaurants, and even shared a cake with a lonely soul the anniversary day.

“People use me in different ways,” he said. “Some people are lonely. Some people think it’s a shame to go somewhere (interesting) alone – they want someone to share their impressions with.

“What is amazing is the wide variety of personalities, circumstances and situations,” he noted. “It hits me almost every day.”

One recent weekday, he met a woman in her thirties, one of his regulars. After sketchy greetings, they sat down to sip coffee – in silence.

The woman, who requested anonymity, said Mr Rental provided a safe space with no judgment, no ropes and no talking.

“Japanese women tend to worry about what other people think and not weigh others down,” she said. “It’s exhausting. So being free from this obsession is precious.”

The concept of offering to be a plus-one in restaurants or on shopping trips is not uncommon in Japan. But Morimoto was perhaps the first to offer a wide range of “missions” for nothing more than the cost of the car and, if necessary, meals.

Followed online by nearly a quarter of a million people, he wanders around town, and often outside, encountering a constant stream of customers. “Rent-a-man” struck a chord in this workaholic and conformist country.

Thousands of curious encounters later, his experiences have enabled him to earn a living. He has written four books, including a manga, on meeting clients for a few hours in a coffee shop or on a night out, or providing moral support while a client files for divorce.

While its clientele is predominantly female, some of the often poignant stories are those of men having a complete stranger’s ear ache. There was the young man, stuck in a soul-killing office job, who asked Rent-a-Man to meet him on the swings after work, to briefly relive the joy of being alive.

Another unforgettable client was a lonely young man who asked to share a home-cooked meal, and an unbearable secret: his mother had raised him to a life of crime, and he had been sent to a reformatory for his role in a theft that left a woman dead. And yet, the man told Mr Rental, he still longed for the mother who had ruined his life.

Mr. Rental’s iconic props, a blue cap and backpack, and his inexplicable minor fame, inspired a 12-part semi-fictional Amazon Prime series last year.

“Critics say, ‘Find a job!'” The married father of one told CBS News. “But I don’t feel the need to answer anyone. They are entitled to their opinions.”

In the evening, Morimoto was on the move again, heading for a drink with a soft-spoken 44-year-old health worker, Tamami Miyazaki.

“With a friend you have to ask yourself whether or not he would like the bar or not,” she said. “But with Rental-san, he’s just saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’. It’s less dramatic than going out with a friend.”

Morimoto has sparked dozens of copiers, but he’s only just getting started. He can’t stand inferences that it looks like real work. Nothing is more fun, he says, than doing nothing.

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