- The Straits Times
Takanobu Nishimoto runs an unusual business. The Straits Times reported that the 50-year-old fashion consultant started an online service called “Ossan Rental” in 2012 from his home in Tokyo.
‘Ossan’ is a somewhat derogatory term of reference for ‘uncles’, or middle-aged men.
For just 1,000 Japanese yen (S$12) an hour, those who use Nishimoto’s service will find a middle-aged man listening to their woes, doing chores, or offering life advice.
In Japan, middle-aged men are often made fun of for their stereotypical receding hairline, rotund beer bellies and unhygienic habits, shared Nishimoto, and he set up the service with the intention to dispel all the negative stereotypes of Japanese ‘uncles’.
“Initially, I thought that young men seeking advice would make up most of the clientele, but it was women from their twenties to fifties,” shared Nishimoto.
Their needs vary – some seek career and love advice, while others simply want companionship at concerts or at bars. ‘Ossan’ also help customers move furniture or play the role of a boyfriend to ward off stalkers.
Nishimoto ensures the safety of his clients. He screens potential ‘ossan’ applicants to ensure that they are not overly long-winded – a trait which many of his clients dislikes. He also conducts a compulsory criminal record check. Furthermore, he disallows his ‘ossan’ to touch clients or do anything that would result in a physical relationship, threatening to expel them from the website if it happens.
While the ‘ossan’ get to keep their earnings, Mr Nishimoto charges 10,000 yen a month for Ossan Rental membership to weed out any man who may be harbouring dubious intentions. They also have to commit to a one-year contract.
Nishimoto believes that mature men have lots of life experience to share and can be handy when it comes to helping others. The site now receives around 900 bookings a month, with popular ‘ossan’ garnering 50 to 60 bookings, earning up to 100,000 yen.
Mr Nishimoto has nearly 80 ‘ossan’ to choose from – compared to just himself when he first started out. The popularity of ‘ossan’-for-rent has inevitably led to copycats. There are at least three other websites offering such a service throughout Japan.
The benefits of ‘ossan’ rental are two-way, said Mr Nishimoto. “‘Ossan’ themselves also grow through this role. Either they gain more confidence, polish their image, or learn lessons in life from other people.”