Making friends is not as easy as most people think, but it seems that for young men and women in Japan it’s really, really hard. According to a recent article published in the country’s biggest newspaper, some people are finding it so difficult to make people like them that they prefer to pay for rent-a-friend services.
According to surveys cited by the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, more and more young people have problems making friends in the real world and resort to actually paying for rented friends in order to avoid being seen alone and labeled as loners by their peers. Tokyo-based company Client Partners offers a variety of unique services like hiring someone to take photos of you at an event, or paying a person to wait in line for you on a gadget’s release day, but one of its most popular is the “rent-a-friend”. For a hefty fee, you can choose total strangers (men or women) to accompany you and act as your friends. It’s not exactly the perfect scenario for a fun night out, but clients say it beats having to face your loneliness, dealing with rejection all the time or being looked down at by your peers. According to representatives of the company, Client Partners has tens of rent-a-friend requests per month, most of which come from lonely young Japanese who have lost all confidence.
Photo: Client Partners
Abe Maki, who works for Client Partners, says: “These people don’t have any strong sense of self-worth, so they take more care than is necessary of how others judge them. Still, more often than not, they have a lot of online friends. That’s because online they have one-directional communication with people, where they don’t need to the other person to think well of them”. Kuoichi, is one such person. He told Yomiuri Shimbun reporters about his experience with the rent-a-friend company: last summer he wanted to go to a popular dance club, but was reluctant to go alone and hated being turned down by acquaintances he had asked to accompany him in the past. So he called Client Partners and ended up paying 30,000 yen ($344) for the friendly company of two girls he had never met before. The bill put a big dent in Kuoichi’s budget, but he says it was worth it. The three of them had fun at the club, and after that they chatted at a restaurant until dawn. “It’s a relief that they will just accept you unconditionally. My loneliness was soothed”, the young man said. “If you’re going to get hurt, it’s better to spend some money instead.”
Just in case you’re wondering, there is nothing sexual about this kind of rent-a-friend service. Lonely Japanese people are just looking for someone to act as their friend in places where they feel it’s awkward to be seen alone, nothing more. It’s all about keeping up with appearances, and for companies like Client Partners it’s very good business. You may say “hey, I’d rather be alone than pay for someone’s friendship, that’s just degrading”, but apparently in Japanese society, it’s not so much about you, as it is about what others think of you.