Monday, 21 Sep, 2009 Offbeat

Rent-a-Friend Agencies Are a Hit in Japan


A new trend is rapidly developing in the land of the rising sun. Japan witnesses a great demand for rent-a-friend agencies that offer their service for people who are looking for a friend, husband, boss, uncle etc.

Hagemashi Tai (I Want to Cheer You Up) is one of such agencies. It was opened three-and-a-half years ago by 44-year-old Ryuichi Ichinokawa, who decided to launch his agency after abandoning his goal of becoming a qualified counselor.

Mr. Ichinokawa says that he has had numerous requests since he successfully completed his mission as best man and was applauded for his speech at a wedding.

"People wanted women, old and young people, all sorts, but of course I couldn't play all those roles myself," Mr. Ichinokawa was quoted by the Guardian as saying. He decided to hire people to help him with the task and today his agency features 30 agents of both sexes. All of his agents work in different parts of the country, temporarily playing roles of people who are in the right time and at the right place.

For turning up a wedding party, the agents can charge only 15,000 yen ($162). However, in case agents are asked to do an additional task like singing or making a speech, they will charge extra money. The job requires knowing a lot of details, analyzing every possible situation, otherwise things could get worse and the agent could for example embarrass his client and affect his status. But Mr. Ichinokawa proudly says that since he opened his agency he has never been caught out.

Some of the first rent-a-friend agencies in Japan opened eight years ago and today there are ten agencies like Hagemashi Tai, one of the most popular being Office Agent, which can boast with 1,000 people on its books.

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