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In Japan, You Can Even Rent a Friend

September 22, 2009

While China struggles to develop its service sector, Japan apparently has no such problem.  Consider the burgeoning “rent a friend” industry, described in an article this weekend in The Guardian.  For a modest fee, a complete stranger will pose as your friend, relative, work colleague, or even spouse.  As Tokyo-based reporter Justin McCurry explains:

The number of rent-a-friend agencies in Japan has doubled to about 10 in the past eight years. The best known, Office Agent, has 1,000 people on its books.

The rise of the phony friend is a symptom of social and economic changes, combined with a deep-seated cultural aversion to giving personal and professional problems a public airing.

In recent months demand has surged for bogus bosses among men who have lost their jobs; for colleagues among contract employees who never stay in the same job long enough to make friends, and from divorcees and lovelorn singletons.

The original article is amusing, a little sad, and well worth a read.

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