Michaeline: You Can Rent a Man in Japan

A handsome samurai leaning on his sword in a Japanese ukiyoe wood cut print

Help wanted? Have sword; will travel! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

まじ!You can rent a Japanese middle-aged man in Japan for about 1000 yen (approx. $9 as of this writing) an hour. Now, if that isn’t a seed idea for a romantic story, I don’t know what is.

Tofugu talks about their experiences in renting two older gentlemen here, and Kaeru Parcels gets down to the nitty gritty of how to rent a guy in Japan.

There are ground rules. No sex stuff. You often pay for transportation and any expenses (food, drink, entry fees to museums, etc.) for your gentleman. No touching. And no trying to sell your gentleman anything. If you violate the rules three times, you go on a blacklist.

What do people do with their older gentlemen? Well, one lady didn’t have friends who enjoyed spicy foods, so she rented a guy to go to restaurants with her. Some people just wanted someone to talk to. And others did the sit-com thing, where they hired an old guy to play a role. For example, one guy was a sarcastic guest at a party.

In another case, one woman hired an old guy to play her ex- to make her current boyfriend jealous and propose. It’s a little hard to parse the Tofugu article, but the way I read it, she and the old guy found a spark, and are now happy together. (But it could be read as a happy ending for the girl and her boyfriend after a confession – either way, good story material.)

Rent-a-guy is a pretty common trope in romance fiction, and I think it’s a fun one. It can be very transactional, where Our Heroine rents an actor to play the boyfriend, or Our Hero needs to rent an actress. Or, it can be a matter of social bargaining – the protagonist drags in a near-stranger with the promise of a possible relationship, if only s/he will attend this important meeting with the boss/dinner/awards ceremony as a romantic partner. That’s kind of sucky behavior, really. But most often, the social bargaining is about work chances or there’s a consensual willingness to do the thing.

Another related trope is “the bachelor’s auction”. A guy is put up on the shopping block in order to help raise funds for a charity. He’s bought, and goes on a date with the feisty heroine, and they fall in love, but complications ensue. However, love conquers all, and they find a place where they can see Happily Ever After.

I just read a reddit post about a Red Pill guy who did the bachelor’s auction thing. He was very pleased with the result. I found his psychology to be fascinating; he really disliked women, and he was doing this to find a woman that would be pleasing to him. Bachelors often come along with “packages” like a trip to a day spa, or a dinner at a fancy restaurant. This guy put together a sporty package where he would also be the instructor. It sounds great on the surface, but he explains that he wanted to do it that way so the girl who bought him wouldn’t ditch him and take a girlfriend along on the package. It’d attract a girl who liked the same stuff that he did, and he couldn’t be replaced by a friend (in theory). As a result, he went for rather low $1000 (at an auction with a $900 minimum). However, he was happy because for him, it wasn’t about the money, but about getting a date who liked outdoor stuff, and had the wherewithal to spend $1000 at a charity auction.

Spoiler alert: the date didn’t work out. But, as a result, he was thrown in the path of other charity events who invited him to brighten the room, and he was very confident that he’d meet The One (rich, pretty, no deal-breakers ((of which there were many, he implied))) at one of these events. (Does this sound like shades of Mrs. Bennet? I think it does. This guy was definitely in the market for a long-term relationship, even though his approach was very much like how someone would acquire a fine painting or other object. Mrs. Bennet didn’t much care who her girls got, either. Money was good, ethics were optional.)

(-: One of the best things about the post is that I was introduced to the term “taco fest”. Whoo-hoo! I am fond of the objectifying “sausage fest” so I’m glad the women’s term is so delicious and warm.

At any rate, there’s this delicious conflict between money bonds and social bonds in all of these examples. It’s been a successful trope in the past and with our new social technologies, I think it’s going to be a rich source of romance stories in the future. “CraigsList Honey”, “Upwork Hunk” or “Help Wanted Baby Mine” – strangers in the night who find a connection that lasts.

6 thoughts on “Michaeline: You Can Rent a Man in Japan

  1. $9/hr is awfully cheap. I would so do this! I love the “renting” idea; I think I could develop an idea where my heroine/hero rents someone off and on—say, a personal assistant type of person—to do things. Maybe she’s in a medical boot and she can’t drive, so our Hero by the Hour drives her around to the grocery store, the post office, and the gynecologist. Or for a mani-pedi. That could be amusing. I must confess that in real life or books, I’ve never liked the auction idea, because the concept of selling someone to the highest bidder, even for charity, feels squicky to me. But let me tell you how often I’ve wanted a personal assistant….

    • I think minimum wage is slightly lower than $9/hour here. (-: I love your ideas! My stories always start with a character. Then I have to find a foil for the character. And finally, I’ve got to find an Inciting Event so they don’t sit around talking about hydroponic fertilizer or their space company’s excellent employee exercise incentives.

      The auction idea for me is a little squicky too. But kind of because it’s along the same lines as a beauty contest — surface visuals are more important than what the person does or think. And yeah, humans up on an auction block? Key & Peele can make that funny, but it really is an uncomfortable sort of humor.

      The auction was the closest I could come to rent-a-guy in America, though. (However, I suspect there are some people who do offer themselves up. Is an odd-job man still a thing? It seems so 1930s to my mind.)

  2. I think there has been at least one big-name Hollywood movie based on this trope. Something with Dermit Mulroney as the hired date to a woman’s friend’s or sister’s wedding, maybe? I don’t think I’ve ever seen the whole thing, but I’ve seen the ending at least once, and of course they are in love but there is a MISUNDERSTANDING and then a car chase. Or something.

    I like your ideas for the trope much better! 🙂

    • The “hired date” thing to a wedding (or a prom, but a prom is a little younger than I like my protagonists) is really common. I think one of the early Crusies ran along those lines; I believe Daisy was the heroine (in fact, it might be that story that was written twice — once to satisfy an editor at Harlequin, IIRC, and the other one was OK at a different publisher).

      (-: But just because it’s common doesn’t mean it can’t be embellished and made to look brand new!

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