From lonely pensioners to Japanese schoolgirls with shattered dreams, Takanobu Nishimoto and his crew of middle-aged men will lend an ear to clients who would never dream of spilling their guts to a therapist or worse, their families.
Anyone in need of company can sign up to his online service to rent an “ossan” — a man aged between 45 and 55 — for 1,000 yen ($10) an hour.
“For me, the service is a hobby more than anything,” says Nishimoto, who first came up with the concept four years ago and who now has a growing network of some 60 men across Japan.
“The initial idea was to improve the image of guys my age, people who might not be spring chickens anymore and not taken so seriously.”
And while the 48-year-old professional fashion coordinator is used to renting himself out, he insists conversation is all he offers to between 30 and 40 clients a month, roughly 70 percent of whom are women.
“The people who rent me are just asking me to keep them company for an hour or two, mainly to listen to them,” he tells AFP between sessions, giving the example of a woman in her 80s who would book him every week for a walk around the local park.