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Reason #1 Why I Could Never Live in Japan: Girl Power (or Not)
Contents:


  1. Japan at Play
  2. Japan’s Rent-a-Family Industry
  3. MOST POPULAR
  4. See a Problem?
  5. Living, Working, Playing and Surviving in Japan | HYPEBEAST

Never give up. In this witty and acerbic cost-benefit analysis of learning a foreign language, Ken Seeroi puts forward seven reasons not to bother. Seeroi is at his finest when comparing English speakers in Japan to David Blaine:. Living abroad can be a baffling and frustrating experience at times. Nothing is spared.

On the glorious ambiguities of the Japanese language and the potential for misunderstanding it brings, Salvaggio is priceless:. Craving some of those positive vibes you got from reading about Danny Choo hopping off the plane at NRT with a dream and his cardigan? This wonderful essay from Conan Grames was posted by the American Association of Teachers of Japanese, and tells the story of his love affair with Japan.

Reading Japanese Manga. But these are the highlighted and bookmarked pages of my life in Japan. Featured image: OYTutorial. RocketNews24 Japanese. An observer would have taken them for a real family. Nishida booked a second meeting. This time, the wife and daughter came to his house. Then they ate dinner together and watched television. Before another meeting, it occurred to Nishida to send Family Romance a copy of his house key. Now he felt lighter, able for the first time to talk about his real daughter, about how shocked he had been when she announced her decision to move in with a boyfriend he had never met, and how they had argued and broken off contact.

Nishida himself seemed uncertain about how and for whom the rental daughter had spoken. It took a few tries to get through, but they were eventually able to talk. One day, he came home from work to find fresh flowers for his wife on the family altar, and he understood that his daughter had been at the house while he was gone.

Born in Tokyo, Ishii grew up on the Chiba coast, where his father was a fruit dealer and his mother taught swimming. At twenty, he was scouted by a talent agency, and got a few jobs as a model and a movie extra. He also had regular work as a caregiver for the elderly. He showed me pictures on his phone of his younger self at different senior-home festivities, dressed variously as Marilyn Manson or in drag, surrounded by delighted residents. He loved the feeling of helping people, and was proud of being the most requested caregiver, even when residents were transferred to different facilities.

In effect, he was already a rental grandson. Looking around to see whether anyone had thought to start a professional service of this kind, he came across the Web site of a rental-relative agency called Hagemashi-tai. Instead, he ended up launching a Web site that offered counselling by e-mail. From there, he branched out into renting relatives. A lot of problems, it seemed, were caused by some missing person, and often the simplest solution was to find a substitute.

Ishii registered with Hagemashi-tai, but, at twenty-six, he was considered too young for husband and father roles, and his only jobs were as a wedding guest. Laid-off grooms rent replacements for co-workers and supervisors. People who changed schools a lot rent childhood friends. The newly affianced, reluctant to trouble one another with family problems, may rent substitutes for parents who are divorced, incarcerated, or mentally ill. In , Ishii decided to start his own company. The first step was to think up a memorable name. If parents never stopped appearing as all-powerful, generous, and infallible, as they do to their small children, nobody would ever become independent; yet how can anyone bear the sudden, irretrievable loss of such beloved beings?

Ishii runs Family Romance alongside a talent agency and a tech consultancy, employing about twenty full-time staff members, seven or eight of whom work exclusively for Family Romance. He maintains a database of some twelve hundred freelance actors. Ishii told me that, since , he has played the husband to a hundred women. About sixty of those jobs were ongoing. At one point, early in his career, he was in ten families at the same time. It was not a sustainable workload. He has since implemented a policy that no actor may play more than five roles at a time. One of the hazards of the job is client dependency.

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Japan at Play

Ishii says that between thirty and forty per cent of the women in ongoing relationships with rental husbands eventually propose marriage. The most difficult dependency situations involve single mothers. In such cases, his first step is to reduce the frequency of meetings to once every three months. This approach works with some people, but others insist on more frequent meetings. Occasionally, relationships have to be terminated. They had attended weddings, spiritual seminars, job fairs, standup-comedy contests, and the album releases of teen idols.

The same actress had also replaced overweight mothers at school events; the children of overweight parents may be subject to bullying. Ichinokawa and Ishii told me many more stories. A hostess in a cabaret club hired a client to request her.


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A blind woman rented a seeing friend to identify the good-looking men at a singles dance. A pregnant woman rented a mother to persuade her boyfriend to acknowledge their child, and a young man rented a father to conciliate the parents of his pregnant lover. Ishii says that, two or three times a year, he stages entire fake weddings. The cost is around five million yen around forty-seven thousand dollars. In some cases, the bride invites real co-workers, friends, and family members.

In others, everyone is an actor except the bride and her parents. The rental best man gives a speech, often bringing the rental guests to tears. When Ishii plays the groom, he experiences complicated emotions. A fake wedding, he says, is just as much work to organize as a real one, and he and the client plan together for months. Instead, delegating his responsibilities to subordinates, he played golf and visited hostess clubs on the company tab.

Taishi, impressed by this level of self-knowledge and reluctant to shout at a company president fifteen years his senior, suggested that the client simply join the workers for a meeting or a drink, and stop charging personal expenses to the company. In response, the man launched into a diatribe about the correct distance between a president and the workers, explaining that any variation would intimidate the staff.

He refused to go to even one meeting to see whether or not anyone was intimidated. As they talked in circles, Taishi found himself growing irritated. Rental apologies, the obverse of rental scoldings, can be particularly thorny. Ishii outlined some possible scenarios. If you make a mistake at work, and a disgruntled client or customer demands to see your supervisor, you can hire Ishii to impersonate the supervisor.

Ishii, identifying himself as a department head, will then apologize. Ishii grovels and trembles on the floor while being yelled at, as the real culprit looks on. Ishii says that these scenes give one a surreal, dreamlike, unpleasant feeling. More stressful still are apologies involving affairs.

The idea seems to be to defuse potential violence through a combination of surprise, fear, and flattery. In the past nine years, he has performed five hundred and thirty ceremonies. For the four-hundredth ceremony, a husband, dressed as a human-size wedding bouquet, was attached to a bungee cord and pushed off a cliff by his soon-to-be ex-wife. Fifteen couples have got back together after the slide show. On occasion, women who are embarrassed about their divorces have hired rental relatives to attend.

Terai cried, and felt that a burden had been lifted. Today, there are some forty organizations holding rui-katsu workshops in Japan, most of them unaffiliated with Terai.

Reason #2 Why Living in Japan Isn’t For Me: Exploitation of Women

In addition to ninety-minute corporate sessions, Terai makes a yearly trip to Iwaki, a city in Fukushima Prefecture, to run a rui-katsu session with earthquake survivors. Terai, now thirty-seven, says that attitudes toward men crying have changed since his childhood. As an experiment, he asked younger women what they would think of a man who cried.

Japan’s Rent-a-Family Industry

All of them said that they would think he was sensitive and kind—provided that he was also good-looking. Having also heard from some female rui-katsu participants that the service would be improved if a handsome man wiped away their tears, Terai felt professionally obliged to start dispatching handsome men to help people cry. My translator, Chie, expressed surprise when I declined to book an eight-thousand-yen private room for my weeping session; I assured her that, though the swordsman was a novelty, it would be neither my first nor, in all likelihood, my last time crying in public.

The swordsman, a willowy youth with chiselled features and an expression of great sensitivity, wore a garment made by a designer specializing in modernistic reinterpretations of traditional Japanese dress.

MOST POPULAR

I waited in dread for the father to turn out to have cancer. Suddenly, the video was over. Nothing bad had happened. Chie, too, was crying. All the same, Terai wanted to take pictures of the swordsman drying my tears. I looked at the floor and the swordsman leaned toward me with the handkerchief.

See a Problem?

He told me about his audition for the weeping service, which had been recorded by a news program. But he had given the swordsman another chance. My next appointment, with Family Romance, was two hours with a rental mother, in the shopping district of Shibuya. I had been anxious about it even before I got to Japan. It struck me as unfair that I was not only going to Japan without her but also plotting to rent a replacement.

One afternoon in Tokyo, on a commuter train, Chie helped me fill out the order form. I found myself telling her about the day when I was three or four and my mother, a young doctor, who worked long hours, came home early and took me out to buy a doll stroller. This unhoped-for happiness was somehow intensified by the unnecessariness, the surplus value, of the doll stroller. For a happy day, though I remember at a later date asking my mother why mentioning it always felt somehow sad.

I was worried that she would tell me not to be morbid, not to find ways to be sad about things that were happy. She stood as I approached. She returned my embrace, a shade distantly. Having booked her for two hours, I suggested that we might do both. I agreed. All of a sudden, her expression softened. I felt a mild jolt of emotion. How do you cope with all the pressure? I found myself telling the rental mother about the meditation app on my phone, and asking if she liked to meditate. I started to interview her. After completing her education, she joined the corporate workforce, climbing to the upper levels of various international companies, before leaving her last position, two years ago.

Airi registered with Family Romance shortly afterward, and now gets a couple of assignments every month. My mother had also overcome many professional barriers to reach a high level in her field, in a country different from the one she grew up in. She, too, had left her work recently. We talked about the article I was interviewing her for.

When she offered to show me around the department store even though our time was up, I found myself saying yes.

Living, Working, Playing and Surviving in Japan | HYPEBEAST

A product, in part, of Confucian principles, the ie was rigidly hierarchical. The head controlled all the property, and chose one member of the younger generation to succeed him—usually the eldest son, though sometimes a son-in-law or even an adopted son. Continuity of the house was more important than blood kinship.

The other members could either stay in the ie , marry into a new one daughters , or start subsidiary branches sons. Nationalist ideology of the Meiji era represented Japan as one big family, with the emperor as the head of the main house and every other household as a subsidiary branch. With postwar economic growth and the rise of corporate culture, ie households became less common, while apartment-dwelling nuclear households—consisting of a salaryman, a housewife, and their children—proliferated.

During the economic boom of the eighties, women increasingly worked outside the home. The birth rate went down, while the divorce rate and the number of single-person households went up. So did life expectancy, and the proportion of older people. Their real son lived with them, but refused to listen to the stories. The price of a three-hour visit from a rental son and daughter-in-law, in possession of both an infant child and a high tolerance for unhappy stories, was eleven hundred dollars.

The idea of rental relatives took root in the public imagination. Postmodernism was in the air, and, in an age of cultural relativism, rental relativism fit right in.