Dating is hard. You have to craft the perfect online profile, because one off-putting line or unattractive photo could lead to instant rejection. And let's say you do match with someone. Now you have to strike up a scintillating conversation, and pivot to asking them out, without getting ghosted. The odds are not in your favor. But let's they you do make plans for a date. Now there's a strong chance your match will cancel last-minute with a BS excuse, or not show up at all, leaving you sitting alone at the restaurant, anxiously checking your phone.
Well, if you're feeling burnt by the dating game, you should book a trip to Tokyo. No, not to get a refreshing fish pedicure, or gorge on sushi or take a picturesque ride in a rickshaw. To find companionship. Through the online service, Ossan Rental, men in Japan are being hired to act as boyfriends for just 1,000 yen, or $8.89 an hour. ("Ossan" is a somewhat rude term for a middle-aged man or 'uncle.')
Takanobu Nishimoto created the service in 2012 because he was frustrated with the negative stereotypes associated with middle-aged men. "We're labeled as dirty, smelly old men, who are long-winded and full of lame jokes," he told The Straits Times. Rather than be a chubby, bald annoyance - a 'George Costanza,' if you will - Nishimoto thinks mature men can provide valuable service. His Ossans play a variety of roles, doing clients' chores, listening to their woes, offering life advice, warding of stalkers and providing companionship at a bar or concert.
"Initially, I thought that young men seeking advice would make up most of the clientele, but it was women from their twenties to fifties," Nishimoto shared with Business Insider. He added the safety of the clients is guaranteed, because they steps to weed out unsavory characters. Every Ossan applicant is rigorously screened to make sure they don't have a criminal record, and aren't too "long-winded." (Apparently, his clients hate that personality trait.) Also, they're forbidden to touch the clients, on threat of being expelled from the website.
The Ossans must commit to a one-year membership, which costs $88.89 a month. They get to keep the rest of their earnings. Nishimoto says there about 80 Ossans to choose from, the popular Ossans get 50 to 60 bookings a month, and the website receives about 900 bookings a month, total. It's such a smash success that three copycat websites have sprouted up in Japan, vying for their customers.
This service may sound strange to you, but, really, is it any stranger than online dating now? Last I checked, the latest trends were 'Gatsby-ing,' 'freckling' and 'pie-hunting.' Get out of your bubble! Plus, there are benefits for the mature men: "'Ossan' themselves also grow through this role," says Nishimoto. "Either they gain more confidence, polish their image, or learn lessons in life from other people."