Japan’s Lonely Youth Turns to Rent-a-Friend Services

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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.

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Chinese IKEA Customers Make Themselves a Little Too Much at Home

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If you’ve ever walked through an IKEA store thinking about how cool it would be if you could just lay down on one of them soft beds, cover yourself with a fluffy blankets and nap, then you need to move to China, because that’s what IKEA visitors do over there.

The Chinese simply love IKEA! Millions visit the company’s mainland stores every year, but only a few of them actually end up buying something, as many just come to enjoy the air-conditioning on a hot summer day and take a nap on the comfy furniture on display. ”Some of them even come in once the store opens in the morning, and won’t leave until the store closes in the evening,” a security staff from the IKEA store in Shanghai told Morning Star, but although this sometimes bothers employees, the company hasn’t taken any measures against people making themselves a little too much at home, because it sees it as a future investment. They believe when these people have more consumption power they’ll come back and buy something, but until then they’re free to loiter around.

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Woman Hasn’t Shaved Armpits in 18 Months to Challenge Social Taboos

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Emer O’Toole, a 28-year-old Irish journalist has created an Internet buzz after she appeared on a morning show and revealed her hairy armpits and legs. The confident young woman said she hasn’t shaved in 18 months, since she decided to challenge the notion that women must shave their body hair in order to be happy and feel attractive.

It’s true Emer isn’t the only woman in the world who doesn’t shave her armpits and legs, but in modern society, woman bodily hair is one very big social taboo. But the graduate student from Dublin started examining her relationship with her body and her body hair and realized she had first started shaving when she was 14 just because it was expected of her, not because she had to. So she decided to make herself the main protagonist of an experiment that would challenge society’s notions of female beauty. She simply stopped shaving her body hair for the last 18 months.

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B-Style – Japan’s Fascination with Black Lifestyle

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Young Hina has what is most coveted by Japanese women – pale skin. And yet, she visits tanning salons every week. Not just for a sun-kissed look, but for a deeper, darker shade. Hina is one of many young Japanese women who are crazy about B-Style (Black Lifestyle). They adore the African American pop/hip hop culture to such an extent that they are ready to compromise everything natural about their looks. After all, as Hina herself admits, “part of B-Style is that you do not look Japanese.” So there are trips to the tanning salons along with hair braids, clothing and accessories that reflect B-Style to the core.

For Hina it all started when her hair turned frizzy in high school. She then got interested in Black artists and found them pretty cool. Soon she found herself in a tanning salon for the very first time. Today, she is an employee at a trendy Tokyo boutique called Baby Shoop, completely dedicated to B-Style fashion. The boutique goes by the tag-line ‘Black for Life’. Hina loves working there as she feels the shop is a “tribute to Black culture and also to their music, fashion and dance.” And it’s not just Hina but all the shop girls at Baby Shoop that undergo deep tanning on a regular basis. One of the shop girls points out, “Really, with a tan you look slimmer. You look healthy and of course great.”

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The Hikikomori – Japan’s Social Outcasts

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Hikikomori (Japanese for “pull in”) is a term that refers to reclusive adolescents and young adults who choose to isolate themselves from social life. With about a million people in Japan suffering from Hikikomori, I suppose you could call it an epidemic of sorts. Except, the condition is not spread through physical means, it’s purely psychological. It is a phenomenon of social withdrawal that’s pretty much swept the nation in the past few years. About 80% of hikikomori are male, in their teens or twenties, and do not leave the confines of their rooms. They don’t go to school or to work, spending their days in the homes of their parents, reading, watching TV or surfing the internet, consuming meals left for them at the door.

A good example of a typical hikikomori is this boy I’ve been reading about. His mother supposedly refused to reveal his name, fearing social retribution for the boy. The 17-year-old was a normal child, but began to hate school about three years ago. This was after he became a victim to bullying and anonymous hate letters. One day, he suddenly returned home and locked himself in the kitchen. He’s been in there ever since, refusing to come out or let anyone in. The family’s response to this most unusual condition is even more strange. They have simply ‘moved on’, accepting the boy’s behavior as something he will eventually grow out of. They’ve built a new kitchen in the house, and his mother takes meals to his door three times a day. In fact, this is the manner in which most Japanese respond to hikikomori – with utmost tolerance.

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