Last week, a news article caught my eye and I couldn’t help chuckling after reading it.
Apparently, at least in the land of the rising sun, it’s possible to be paid for doing (get this), nothing!
Enter Exhibit A — Mr Shoji Morimoto
A new kind of work?
Mr. Shoji Morimoto, 38, a resident of Tokyo, was reported to charge 10,000 yen each time he’s hired to be a companion to clients.
He’s been hired at least 4,000 times or more in the past four years. And in many instances the jobs he’s asked to do were pretty mundane. Like sitting with someone at a see-saw. Waving goodbye to a client on a train as it leaves the station platform.
Sometimes all that’s requested is a sit-down meal and some casual conversation.
Now just to be clear, Mr. Morimoto doesn’t offer any sexual or romantic services. And he won’t travel with clients overseas nor move heavy stuff like a fridge.
So just because he’s the man about town available for rent, the lanky plain-looking Mr. Morimoto doesn’t accede to every request. Even though this job is his family’s only income source (he has a wife and a child). Meaning he does need to keep working daily to make ends meet in one of the world’s most expensive cities.
Pre-pandemic days he averaged three to four jobs daily, though that’s down by half now thanks to Covid.
As I chuckled at his unusual job (and the people willing to cough up the yen to pay him), I couldn’t help but wonder…
What other bizarre jobs are out there?
Well plenty apparently, depending on which websites you land on and which you believe.
Some that caught my eye include an ad for a professional sleeper to test beds in a Helsinki hotel, and a man hired to watch wall paint dry in the UK. There’s also a scuba diving pizza delivery man in Florida, and a professional cuddler in touch-starved Washington DC! And let’s not forget that professional bridesmaids and mourners have been a thing in some parts of the world for quite a while now.
These are certainly crazy jobs to many of us holding down conventional ones. Some seem downright bizarre too, especially when they appear to involve no actual skills other than a stare or a hug! And yet the people who do these get paid, making me wonder which is the crazier: the clients or them?
And while I suspect there are many more such jobs yet to be uncovered — those that seemingly involve nothing other than being present and breathing — I think it’s worthwhile asking how these jobs came to be in the first place.
For that, let’s return to Mr. Morimoto and see if he can shed any light.
“No need to be ‘useful’; there’s value in ‘doing nothing’“
According to the Reuters report, Mr. Morimoto had previously worked in a publishing company where he was often chided for doing nothing. That prompted him to ask if that might be his ticket to a new career.
“I started wondering what would happen if I provided my ability to do nothing as a service to clients,” he mused.
Fast forward to 2022. He now gets most of his gigs from his more than 250,000 Twitter followers, many of whom are repeat clients. One had even hired him a record 270 times!
Recently, a 27-year-old data analyst named Miss Aruna Chida wanted to wear the sari — a traditional Indian garment — out in public. However, she was worried it might embarrass her friends. So she turned to Mr. Morimoto for companionship. They ended up having tea and cakes together but with little by way of conversation.
And she got to wear her sari.
“With my friends, I feel I have to entertain them, but with the rental guy [Mr Morimoto] I don’t feel the need to be chatty,” said Miss Chida.
So to the rest of the world, what seems a companionship rental service that’s really much ado about nothing (literally!), Miss Chida and many others have found to be of value.
Suggesting that companionship for its own sake can be, surprise surprise, a commodity with a quantifiable value!
At least in Tokyo.
Doing nothing with someone is better than with no one
To me, Mr. Morimoto has tapped into a societal issue that’s prevalent and well-documented in Japan — loneliness.
But it’s by no means an issue unique to the Japanese, though at least they in 2021 (and the UK in 2018) recognize it enough to appoint a cabinet minister to oversee policies on loneliness and isolation.
It’s an issue that has also dogged me to an extent I never imagined until I stepped away from full-time employment in 2018. But I’m not going to dwell on that here; I’ve already posted several times about this serious matter of isolation. Except to say that I continue to believe it’s brought about by a toxic culture that regards visible economic contributions — that are not only sustained but ever-expanding — as the ultimate arbiter of a citizen’s worth.
Mr. Morimoto himself would seem to agree, since he too reportedly questions a society that values productivity and derides uselessness.
“People tend to think that my ‘doing nothing’ is valuable because it is useful (for others) … But it’s fine to really not do anything. People do not have to be useful in any specific way,” he said.
That in a nutshell lies wisdom we shouldn’t ignore anymore.
For to paraphrase Mr. Morimoto: “People don’t have to be useful in only certain specific ways. Instead, our worth should derive from who we are and not what we do!”
And, thanks to Mr. Morimoto, we now know the worth of who we (individually) are: 10,000 yen.
[PS In case you’re wondering, that’s currrently about USD 70!]