07/25/2016, 21.24
JAPAN
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"Rent a friend": New boom of increasingly lonely Japanese society

Boom in number of people who pay out 1000 yuan per hour for conversation with a stranger. The "ossan" men between 45 and 55 years, are paid to listen to people and their problems, which can not be told to friends and family. A psychologist: "The Japanese have a hard time finding someone to confide in."

Tokyo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Rent a person with whom to spend time and who is willing to listen. This is the new method of choice of socialization for Japanese in recent years, made available by some agencies that organize a booming business. Elderly, lonely people, male and female students, can have the company of a middle-aged man for about 1000 yen per hour (about $ 10).

The service was invented by "ossan" as the men between 45 and 55 years are called. One of them, Takanobu Nishimoto, was one of the first (four years ago) to organize a company that would manage bookings: "For me - he says - this service is more of a hobby. The initial idea was to improve the image of men of my age, who are no longer in their prime and are not taken seriously. "

The "ossan" make themselves available to people who feel the need to talk to someone who does not judge and they can confide their worst secrets in: "People who rent me - says Nishimoto - asks me only to keep them company for one or two hours, mostly listening. " For example, he tells of a lady of 80 whom he takes for a walk in the park every week.

People who choose to turn to this service do so to escape the expectations that family or friends have on them. Psychologist, Hiroaki Enomoto, explains that in Japan there are many rules governing what can and can not be said in a conversation, even with close people: "At times - he explains - it's hard to find the right people within close circles with which to face a particular topic. It is also hard to know how to express oneself without upsetting somebody else@.

With the rental of "ossan", however, the exchange of money changes the terms of the relationship, which follows other rules. In recent years, the agents have even been transformed into "friends for an hour." Customers may require persons who accompany them as relatives or companions on various occasions, such as weddings, parties and funerals. Others just want to talk.

Nodoka Hyodo, a girl of 24 year, decided to rent a mate for a few hours: "There is a different type of 'me' - she says - depending on me to be with friends, with my family or with my boy. I create myself in relation to others. Here, however, everything disappears because I talk to someone I do not know. Thanks to him I understand myself better. "

Japanese society has long suffered from problems connected with the extreme difficulty in socializing with some individuals who decide to isolate themselves from the rest of the world keeping in touch only via internet (the so-called "hikikomori"). Moreover, the rule of "do not bother" your neighbor, restrains people from expressing their difficulties with acquaintances.

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