Many Japanese people, from teenagers to seniors, in need of a confidant, feel the need to talk to "neutral" ears without lying on the couch of a psychoanalyst. The solution: hire a "good guy".
Ahe service is called "ossan rental"The first term literally refers to a man between two ages (45-55 years). It costs 1,000 yen (8.5 euros) per hour. The idea was born four years ago in the mind of freelance designer Takanobu Nishimoto. He started by renting himself out.
" For me, this service is above all a hobby, with the initial idea of improving the image of men of my age, which is a bit out of date and tends to be mocked.« he explains to AFP, between two "clients". And to cut off all suspicion: " The people who praise me just ask me to accompany them for an hour or two, especially to listen to them...« . He cites the case of an octogenarian who, every week, called on him for a walk in the park. « I had almost become like his son« says Mr. Nishimoto, 48.
From the spoiled granny to the dreamy teenager
There was also a fisherman who was tired of keeping watch alone while waiting for a fish to take the bait, a schoolgirl determined to become a starlet but not really supported by her family and friends, a young employee who was a bit gauche and didn't really know how to deal with his superior.
" I have lived through many moving moments and even if I have thought several times about stopping, in fact, this service and these encounters have, I believe, become indispensable to me. My wife is understanding and trusts me« The number of clients per month is between 30 and 40, of which 70% are women.
From "ossan" for rent, Mr. Nishimoto's department now has about 60 of them, spread across the country.
" I don't know, when I'm being praised, what I'm going to be asked, it's certainly a bit scary, but that's also the point. To tell you the truth, I've never had to deal with strange clients..."
Nodoka Hyodo, 24, praises Mr. Nishimoto for speaking freely, forgetting the "social role" she has to play with her relatives.
" There's the me with my friends, the me with my family, the me with my boyfriend. I create an ego based on others. Here, it all explodes from the factthat I talk to someone I don't know and thanks to whom I feel I understand myself better", says this employee of a translation company.
Paid to listen
This divisible self - "the dividu", according to the neologism of the writer Keiichiro Hirano - is very Japanese and is opposed to "the individual", a whole being, an indivisible entity and free to show itself as it is, without merging into a personality imposed by circumstances.
For French sociologist Muriel Jolivet, a specialist on Japan, this service is indicative of the increasing difficulty that Japanese people have in communicating with their loved ones, for fear of annoying them, of their reaction.
This view is shared by Hiroaki Enomoto, a psychologist and author of numerous books on communication and society, who points out that in Japan, the relational framework is predefined and what can be said there is also predefined. « When you are confronted with something new, it is difficult to tell someone about it because there is not necessarily the right person to talk to in existing relationships. One wonders to what extent one can give oneself away, if one does not risk embarrassing the other person.« he says.
In the case of"ossan rental"this is a commercial relationship: " It is because the person pays to speak, that he or she can demand to be listened to, which is not possible with a loved one who cannot be forced to accept a conversation and towards whom one can feel a certain shame. Women confide in me things they would not tell their friends.« says Mr. Nishimoto.
Header image: Takanobu Nishimoto of "Ossan Rental" listening to a customer in Tokyo, May 23, 2016 Photo afp.com/QUENTIN TYBERGHIEN