>If the client never reveals the truth, I must continue the role indefinitely. If the daughter gets married, I have to act as a father in that wedding, and then I have to be the grandfather. So, I always ask every client, “Are you prepared to sustain this lie?” It’s the most significant problem our company has.
>Morin: You’re offering a more perfect form of reality?
>Yuichi: More ideal. More clean.
This is so Truman Show esque.
I.e. pay a lot of money in advance, it's invested and the actor gets paid from the interest. You undergo memory treatment, and now your mother who you see once a week is real as far as you know, but really she's an actor you hired years back because your actual mother died.
Sounds like a sort of reverse Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; things could get really awkward and confusing when you end up having partial memories.
But also, possibly a brilliant way to fund nursing homes/increase visitation.
And it's like the opposite of Darth Vader. "Luke, I'm not you true father, I'm a member of the Family Romance corporation."
All memories are partial.
That's a pretty bad deal for both to be honest the client gets a fake they may even fool themselves is real (as they did) and he basically goes through all the bad parts of a relationships without being able to complain.
I kind of agree with faking it to keep up appearances like fake weddings for a lesbian daughter or a fake father so the school doesn't complain about something that is none of their business to begin with since Japanese society is the way it is but long term fake boyfriends and the like can't be healthy.
Well maybe some people are ok leading a fake life but personally if I have a void in my life that motivates me to fill it instead of patching it with a temporary stop gap.
It's the same reason I fix the cause of bugs in software not patch the symptoms they create. If I didn't do that I wouldn't be much of software developer.
Isn't that why the service provider gets paid? I believe the service provider knows that this is the deal.
At the end of the day it's bad for both parties even if they don't realise it I mean he did say he doesn't want a family because of all the shit he puts up faking it although he framed it more politely.
Because of his work he thinks that all families are like the ones he pretends to be a part of but is that really true?
You choose your partner but not your customer so it's not the same and a important distinction.
In season 1 of the modern adaption of Westworld it's the robot actors that don't know they are not real. The customers know it's not real.
If anything else happens in the books or the movies or other series I don't want to know.
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oldboy_(2003_film) , I haven't seen the 2013 remake
But it's not really that surprising, as much as I love Japan, the way they've commoditized casual social interactions has always been downright scary to me.
Hostess club culture might be the most obvious example, but it's only the most well known atop a whole mountain of service industry which revolves around people paying for casual social interactions, which imho belong among basic human needs.
The notoriously strict Japanese social hierarchy probably played a part in the widespread establishment of such practices: Can't show any weakness among social peers, so people rather isolate themselves and even keep their casual social interactions on a "professional level". This also removes the need to keep up with peer pressure in a very dense and very socially competitive environment, just outsource all the venting to a service worker.
I fear in a not so far-flung future this will become more common outside of Japan because high population density probably also played a role in the establishment of these strict social hierarchies and all their resulting woes.
The tragic thing being that we are all just lonely broken people but nobody likes to admit it, so we just keep on playing games of pretend with each other.
It's very hard for me to condemn this when the outcome seems so inarguably positive. Truthfulness is important, yes, but so is outcome. And if this woman after ten or twenty years, when she is well-adjusted with a career and family of her own, finds out the truth, would she be angry with her mother - or thank her?
Ethics is not black and white. It can often be a struggle between multiple competing imperatives. This is a Trolley Problem for the human soul.
O righteous crusaders for truth, if this girl was put in front of you, would you tell her?
How does the daughter feel about having a father she sees so infrequently? Is it hard on her? Does she wonder why he won't come help her when she calls him out of the blue over some emergency? Now that she's older, would it be easier for her to know the truth?
We don't know. What I do know is eventually she'll find out, somehow. What happens then?
Bullying also has its own share of research (https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/bullying/conditionin...). It will not be easy to get a fair evaluation of harm vs harm mitigation.
So the real question is: is the 4-hours a week of fake fatherhood better than being a bullied, emotionally traumatized kid throughout some of the hardest moments of growing up?
Its a fake, rent-a-father for 4 hours a week. But that fake fatherhood is probably way better than no fatherhood at all.
Its a difficult moral question for sure.
Maybe yes. Along with the fact that her fake father dreams about telling her the truth, but is afraid to do so.
So then they can maybe have a real relationship and see each other whenever they want to and not only when her mother pays him to be professional.
Because clearly both have a real connection.
Btw. is he not scared of openl publishing all this? Or does no one in japan reads english magazines?
What makes you think that wouldn't have happened over time by itself? What's the message here, bullying someone for having lost her father is okay, not having a father is not okay? That's normalizing people being bullied for being humans. It's normalizing not allowing a widow to find another lover who at least may have an actual "bigger brother" style connection to her children than some actor who has none.
We don't need "figures" and "role models" for what they seem like, like pixels on a screen. That need comes from being someone, at least the natural initial desire to become someone, and it aims at people who are someone, too.
> Ethics is not black and white.
Except of course for the father figure she "obviously" needs, and how the confidence has "improved" (implied: from not good enough to good enough), during that "critical" part of the development as if there were any non-critical ones in life.
> O righteous crusaders for truth, if this girl was put in front of you, would you tell her?
That's not the question. The question is, would you fake being her father, or would you hire a fake father, and the answer to both of that for me is no, I can bet you my life on that, in writing. Oh righteous crusader for deep considerations, can you at least not turn faking being a father into the burden of "telling the truth" in a situation we would not have incurred in the first place?
When something makes you sad, there is usually good reason for it. Why not simply give her drugs to make her happy, and money to make it not matter if she has a career? If truthfulness, who you actually are, is just this thing on the side trumped by "outcome", why arbitrarily stop there? Why not permanently install on VR helmets and drug pumps onto everybody right after birth, done?
What would people who don't mind something like this have to withstand something even more twisted? How about this is already 20 iterations past sane, how about no? How about having a decent society instead of a rising tide of shut-ins and suicide and elderly people with plastic robot dogs? If you can't see those elephants on the couch, how can you be all life coach about this maybe not being the sad, nutty thing it is on the surface because it's possible that in 20 years it might have turned out well? Start everything like you want it to end. If you can't handle even someone else's mortality, how about your own? When I worked in a hospital, I was constantly amazed at the idle chit chat relatives made with people who had very short time left. I felt like those of the stuff who made human connections were the only ones remotely realizing what was going on. The visitors just dipped in, coated in a shell of activity, and left before anything could sink in. And I believe many genuinely loved those they visited, for some they were the apple of their eye; they were just so inept at life that they wasted those last moments together, too. In short, just to repeat, no. No to all of it. No to that entire branch.
edit: while I don't like to add even more to such a long rant (please don't take it personal in the accusative sense because I mirrored your "oh.." phrasing, take it as personal as meaning a lot to me), another thought occurred to me that actually does make me a bit angry: he's not "giving" her a fake father, he's taking her real and unfortunately dead father away from her. In the sense of role models and emotional support a LOT of things and people can do -- in the sense of the person you are and who your parents are, there are no substitutes. This is unforgivable to me; not that it's my call in this case, but if I was that girl, and I found out one day, that guy would have to fear for his life. How is it even possible that it's legal for him to not own up when she turns 18? Just because the lie started when she wasn't an adult? There is not one single aspect of this that isn't utterly fucked up to me. No, it's not understandable. It's understandable as in you needed to clean the dishes and now there is a 100 m tall sea monster destroying the whole block.
Having acted as the perfect boyfriend, husband, and father, in bite-sized chunks, even while exhausted, subject of the article is in an ideal position to take on the real thing. The only difference is that the actors get to stop playing their roles when the scene is over, while the real people have to keep their masks on forever.
As screwed up as it may sound, this guy is actually removing one of the layers of mutually-reinforced illusion from Japanese society, by openly admitting that the other person in an interaction is playing a predefined role in exchange for valuable consideration. It's like that old cynical description of an older profession: you're not paying for that, you're paying for them to leave afterward. You're substituting cash for the emotional investment you would otherwise have to put in as your half of the exchange. It's brutally mercenary, but some people are happy enough with the illusion. Why else would novels and teleplays be so popular? If my entire life is a lie anyway, why not pay a little extra to make it a good one?
This article is one of the reasons why I think Japan will be the first to industrialize companionship AI, and thereby blow huge, gaping, unrepairable holes through their own culture within the span of a single generation. Some forward-thinking researcher had better install a secret matchmaking protocol into the model before version one ships, or we're all doomed.
Everyone wants this. An end to bullying would be great. Social expectations, roles, and conformity is harmful when it leads to groups ganging up on individuals.
And it doesn't end in school. I have personally had job interview in which the lack of popular social activity outside schools hours resulted in me not getting the job. Every time I see a studying looking at appearance and conformity to social expectations and norms I see a global phenomenon where society rewards conformity and punish non-conformity. Faking conformity is not a solution, but I can't say there has been much progress in removing the underlying issue. From my view there was progress until about mid 1970, in which the trend reversed and now we have a polarized world in which you either must conform to a naturalist or purist view (The Chromium Fence).
> When I worked in a hospital, I was constantly amazed at the idle chit chat relatives made with people who had very short time left.
Measure the stress levels and I think you would get a interesting correlation. There were a study done on parents to cancer sick children, and there were some direct correlation between behavior and stress management. In short summery to what I recall, suppressing the idea that the child was sick gave short-term stress reduction but that had a major price to pay when reality crashed in. Those that accepted reality early and gave themselves some room to exercise control (like making sure someone was in the room, that the nurses read the right bed-night story, and so on) generally faired better in the long run. It is not a fun study, but it is a good explanation for human behavior.
Society has never been perfect, and it's a very tall order to say that an individual had the agency to build one where this situation would not have incurred in the first place. A single man cannot undo decades of societal decay.
In this situation, you have the agency of one person, to (try) improve the life of another's. If you were the widow, how long do you think you would have to search and deal with various male figures before you finally found the right guy? If you were Yuichi, do you take up this case and try to live honestly with the daughter forever and abandon your old life? Or you can, as you seem to be arguing, do nothing and hopefully the daughter deals with bullying. Those are your options. It isn't fair to the daughter to say "these people who tried to help you are wrong, what they should have done is solve Japan's suicide problem."
Rosa Parks didn't put the powder in the keg, and she didn't want to light no fuse. She was just sick and tired of something she considered wrong and demeaning for herself.
So yes, if it helps, I would probably want to tell that girl. It's dumb to "give an answer" to such a hypothetical. If you were Trump's old school buddy, would you still go jogging with him? Anyway, you know how they say to ignore bullies, and hiring a fake father is going so far in the opposite direction (apart from the totally fucked up priorities in the first place IMO, your actual identity > discomfort that prompts you to grow). And it's not "unfair" to expect people to not make things worse.
Last week, for the first time in my life, someone I care about died. There was lots of "idle chit-chat" as we sat around him (in a coma) in the hospital for 2 weeks, waiting for the end. IMO the content of our conversation didn't really count for much, it was being there for each other that mattered. Words are not the only way you can express deep emotions
Japan may be full of single men, and I'm sure many are wonderful people, but she already failed once in her judgment, so how can she trust herself not do to it again? Is it laziness to avoid swimming after you've almost drowned before?
Plus, you're actually reinforcing her position, by treating "a father" as something you just go out and get, like a car. What if she simply doesn't want to be intimate with anyone? How many single men are prepared to be a father without being a husband?
What you're essentially saying is that you agree that she should hire a father for her daughter, only that she should pay with her body instead of her money.
I think that's harsh and short sighted. Why is marrying a single man better for her daughter? How is that more "real"? It's certainly not true in all cases. If her mother remarried to an abusive alcoholic do you seriously think that's better than hiring what's essentially a professional father?
In every social interaction we can never really be certain of the other person's motivations or feelings about us, or even if they really have feelings as opposed to being an automaton or a hallucination. In many cases it doesn't really matter that much. When a waiter smiles and laughs with us, they might just be thinking about their tip and how much their shoes hurt, but we can still enjoy their company.
Parenthood, romantic love, close friendship are not like this. They rely on a deep level of trust. If you pretended to be my lover, it wouldn't be enough to say "well you couldn't tell and you enjoyed it". There is an implicit shared emotional connection.
In particular, children need to be able to trust their parents.
Children who have been adopted are also "tricked" but I don't think all of them prefer their birth families.
The comment above is implying that the woman is "a lazy, dishonest bitch" for not going and finding a boyfriend or husband so that the girl won't be bullied at school, which is a pretty clueless thing to say. The idea that a family needs a father in order to have any worth or be treated with any respect is the cause of the problem in the first place, and this comment is just reinforcing that ignorant and incorrect position.
In other words, the reason the woman needs to hire someone in the first place to keep her daughter safe is because of people like the person who posted that comment.
There's a well documented reason why there are a lot of single men in Japan.
What is that reason? (Serious question)
The reasons behind _that_ aren't so well understood but generally seem to be disillusionment with the idea of falling in love, getting married and having a family, unwillingness to fit in with traditional expectations (housewife taking care of the kids + hard working salaryman husband) or simply seeing relationships as too hard.
We also generally find it ethically acceptable to form and especially continue relationships based on factors other than true love, including stability of a family environment and economic stability.
What, really, is different about this? Just the fact that we're not lying to ourselves about what the relationship is?
I would strongly favor honesty in both those situations once the child is mature enough to understand, except, in the latter case, when it's clearly in the child's best interest not to have a relationship with her biological father.
> We also find it ethically acceptable for a couple not to ask who fathered their own child.
That sounds to me like an extremely toxic relationship.
> We also generally find it ethically acceptable to form and especially continue relationships based on factors other than true love, including stability of a family environment and economic stability.
Those are at least real emotions and real decisions made honestly, not elaborate and unthinkably cruel deceptions.
Imagine you learned the person you thought was your parent, or sibling, or spouse, was really another person entirely. They never loved you, they never wanted to spend time with you, and all your memories with them were a lie. They were just a hired actor the real part of your family paid $50 an hour to deceive you.
It's hard to imagine anything that could be more painful. It's far worse than a death in the family. It'd be on par with learning your loved one were a murderer or rapist. It's like a particularly unsettling Twilight Zone or Black Mirror plot—I'm aghast that it's a real thing.
"We also generally find it ethically acceptable to form and especially continue relationships based on factors other than true love, including stability of a family environment and economic stability"
In this case, both of the people involved are grown adults and usually know reasonably well what's going on.
The real problem here is how deep a break of trust this would be if they ever found out, and how wrong of an idea this would give ppl of relationships.
Wait, we do? Social issues aside, what about family medical history!?
There's father-by-birth, and then father-by-adoption, and then father-by-convention.
The daughter thinks the rental is her real father. That's highly likely to unravel sometime in her life time. Certainly at his funeral...he is using a fake name and personna.
Not that someone has to be blamed, but it’s the shitty start of the story.
From there if the mother can fake it until her daughter is in a better situation, I think it’s positive.
Even if it doesn’t turn out that well, I am not sure it would much more devastating than having been bullied for all that time she was decieved, and it could a start for a discussion on how she deals with her father image.
The real father actually did disappear, after a history of abuse.
Smart children know. Very smart children hide it from you, so the loot keeps coming. Children that are too smart for their own good denounce all the cargo-culting rituals, introduce a cleaner, less obfuscated, and more efficient process, and end up getting socks, underwear, and mechanical pencils.
But obviously some kids never figure out the tricks, even long after they are grown. I am thankful that if I did have a kid that thick, I could hire a Japanese man at $50/hour for the express purpose of spoiling it for them and telling them to grow up, even as I insisted that yes, kid, there really is a Santa Claus. I guess you never know for sure that they are on board with the program until you're a grandparent.
This was incredibly poignant to me.
Japanese society can be incredibly restrictive in its social circles; it's too simple for me to imagine a guy in his 60s with few friends, few opportunities to make more friends, and then his only friend and long-time partner dies. It's too easy to imagine how lost and desperate he might be, why he might want this kind of service to create a fake reality to live in.
Some people might read this and think "wow, twisted that people can sell this kind of thing in Japan," but as someone who's lived here for a while, I think "wow, twisted that Japanese society forces people to feel like they need this kind of thing."
I struggle to find any kind of up side to the fact that society enables this kind of service, or rather, that this kind of service is even made necessary. Does anyone else see one?
Edit: To go into a bit more detail, my problems with society enabling this kind of service are really:
1. Social expectations and pressure
2. Lack of mental health care/counseling/options and awareness
For example, if you have a golfing group, you guys may go out for drinks but that would be that. You'd almost (key word) never go over to someone else's house, or go see movies together, or any of that -- they're your "golf people."
But that's assuming that you do have a golf group or whatever. A large number of people just go through life with their friends from elementary, junior high, or high school... and then their friends from college. Then friends from the workplace, if you make any beyond the level of "drinks after work."
I know a lot of people who have "drinking friends" from various adult social circles, but their only "real" friends (in the Western sense of people you can chat to about almost anything, do almost anything with, etc.) are a tiny handful of people they've known since junior high or high school.
Loneliness is a huge problem in Japan.
But, I don't think it has to be that way in the US. I myself went from having few friends to having more than I can keep up with, thanks to a period of two years where I went to a ton of Meetup.com events, writers groups, board game groups, and the like. Generally speaking I just had to keep showing up, make a little small talk, and then eventually people knew me and trusted me enough to start inviting me to things outside of it.
And I'm an introvert at heart. I still struggle to talk to people outside of these events and I still get exhausted by social activities.
Most people don't make that effort here, though, and that's one reason why they struggle (also there's some personalities that are either very abrasive, self-defeatist, or otherwise off-putting, and those people struggle as well). I find it's harder to keep up with myself now that I have a long term girlfriend and a puppy, but I still make an effort.
I wonder if that's possible in Japan as well, or if that's not even really a valid avenue over there.
As far as "making an effort" goes, I can only speak for myself (in the sense that it's not worth judging whether other people are "trying" from their appearance), but it's definitely pretty difficult to get past that initial "social circle" restriction.
For example, I've worked at the same company for a few years, gone out for drinks with a few coworkers... attempts at casual chats between work, invitations to stuff beyond work, etc. are all politely rebuffed.
I've also done airsoft before; with the exception of one guy who's also actively looking for friends, nobody is interested in doing anything beyond airsoft. As far as I can guess, they're in that group to do airsoft, not to make friends or do other things with those people -- they just want to do airsoft.
As I said in the beginning though, this is just me and I don't think it's fair for me to judge whether other people are "making an effort," but my own efforts seem to indicate that it's a problem beyond that.
So part of it may be the activity. I've noticed it's been easier or harder to make friends depending on what it is. Dinners seem to work well, movies less so (although if you pair the movie with dinner it can be good). Board games are nice because if you don't really feel like chatting you can just be quiet and focus on playing the game. I bet other sports can be that way too. I remember Pool and Darts feeling that way at times. Trivia nights at pubs sorta worked as well for the same reason.
As for people at work.... I'm friendly with coworkers, and from time to time I will do something with them outside of work, but I've noticed that coworker friendships tend not to stick very well. I've actually found my first coworker friendship that I think might stick in over 20 years, and that's because we both have dogs and set up times to go to the dog park together (he also helped me find my dog when he went missing for a week).
I actually used to feel pretty cynical as well about making friends because I had such bad luck turning coworkers into friends. I stopped trying there a while ago.
I've also had bad luck at "Networking" events. Too many people are just there trying to find the next person to hire them or work with or pass their business card to. I have started having some luck at Hacker nights, though, again because I found one I just keep showing up to, and it's pretty low key.
And for the most part I didn't reach out too aggressively. I mainly just showed up to events, said hi to other regulars, listened in on some conversations, say something here and there, and showed up often enough to become a regular myself. I didn't start getting invites to private events by some people until I'd seen them at 10-20 events previously sometimes.
Certainly not unique to Japan. I see many lonely people in western big cities for instance. Surprisingly, I find it much easier to find a girlfriend than a friend. You just go to a dating website, find someone "similar" and spend time together and you can get close very quickly. It's not the way regular friendship works where it takes much longer to get intimate.
Not true for Berlin, though. If you regularily visit some hackerspaces (or other meetups with like-minded people, such as various user groups such as Emacs user group, political groups such as FSFE, whatever), or go to university and study there, you have very good chances finding friends, some of whom may turn out to be very good friends.
Sometimes it seems hard to get into groups, but usually this is just a matter of having the courage to talk to people, and not so much a matter of being actively rejected by others (although that happens sometimes, too, of course, because every "club" has some low percentage of anti-social-minded people, but those people are easy to ignore).
I assume this is true for the other large cities in Germany as well (Hamburg, Frankfurt/Main, Munich, Bremen, etc.) but I don't know for sure.
EDIT: To those who downvoted: Do you care to elaborate? Did you have different experiences in Berlin? (especially as technically-minded people)
I agree that what you described is a good way (maybe the only way) to make friends. But consider what proportion of attendees at those meetups ended up becoming your friends. I'm guessing a single digit percentage, at best.
For people who don't go to many social events/don't talk to many others there/don't deepen those ties as much, it's very easy to be lonely in basically any city. Making friends takes work, and success is not guaranteed; if you're not putting in that work for some reason, e.g. your personality, you'll end up without friends more likely than not.
Let me present my own anecdote: I grew up in Berlin, and I certainly met lots of new people through school, sports, study groups and so on, but I always kept those separate. If I were into golf, my fellow golfers would be my "golf people", nothing more. I don't tend to attempt conversations with strangers (or people I know, for that matter), so very few of those acquaintances even learned my name. In essence, I don't have any friends.
I wouldn't call myself lonely, though, since I'm happy that way. I wouldn't even know what I'd do with friends if I had any. But I'm pretty sure that there are lots of people (also in Berlin) who are living essentially the same friendless life as me and suffer for it.
That's the gist of it.
In our society, people think human relationships are obvious, should be natural and self evident.
It's a concept that is reinforced by the medias, but also by the childhood memories where it kinda was.
But in the adult world, there are many social contracts and artificial boundaries you have to overcome, and connecting with people IS work.
What's more, it's work a lot of people are not trained to do anymore. And it's work with important consequences, good and bad.
I lived in Africa for a while, and there, you HAVE to connect to people to live. In some countries, basic informations and services can only be obtains by direct contact with another human. So the locals have no problem with loneliness, they make and break relations with ease.
Our modern society are making us kinda handicaped in that mesure, providing so many ways to avoid human contacts: delivery services, text informations everywhere, listings of things, etc. You don't have to ask where to find a product, what it contains, the price, then negociate it. You go to the shop, read, then pay, sometime even to a machine, or order it online.
It clicked, going back. I realized how easier my life was, and what a "cheat code" it is to just be able to talk to a random girl or joke with the guy next to me in the waiting room. I don't miss my times of being an introvert. It had zero benefits for myself.
We may mock Japan, but we are not making progress ourself.
Indeed! But my point is that making friendships in those cities is not prevented by the people or social norms in that country (while in Japan it apparently is, if I understood the previous comments correctly).
> But consider what proportion of attendees at those meetups ended up becoming your friends. I'm guessing a single digit percentage, at best.
Of course. However, if most people would refuse me due to social norms, that number would have been easily dropped to zero.
> I don't tend to attempt conversations with strangers (or people I know, for that matter), so very few of those acquaintances even learned my name. In essence, I don't have any friends.
But that's a purely personal choice, not something imposed onto you by the society, isn't it?
I can give my experience. I've always been in some kind of sport club or another (not a gym but group activities such as swimming, boxing...), I go there a few times a week, sometimes for years at the same club. I eventually get to know the people there (but it can take months), sometimes we hang out but rarely have I made friends there.
I also went to events designed to actually meet new people (for instance, europeans living in NYC, that kind of things). Not much success there. I tend to dislike these events as I'm not really comfortable in social events where I don't know anyone.
Then I made very good friends in total random circumstances. For instance, talking to a guy sitting in a coffeeshop next to me, or with a fellow hiker at the top of a mountain.
Working in a startup job each day leaves me exhausted - not exhausted in regards to meeting people, but to planning such meetings. Too often I will just end up stuck to the internet.
The people I used to do things with either moved away or don't respond to such suggestions anymore.
Social circles seem to fall apart quickly without some condensation nuclei.
I hope working hours are getting more predictable now, so I will try the Meetup route.
I do some things during the week with friends, but it's usually for a specific productive reason (playtest our game designs, or go to starbucks and write), and usually only once a week. But some weeks I'm too tired to do that.
 To be fair each society has its own expectations on what interpersonal relationships should be like. American openness/directness likely isn't inherently virtuous.
My Thai friends are much more direct discussing appearance, for instance. As an American, that was actually quite a shock visiting Thailand -- but you get used to it and adjust, and now it feels weird that there is this taboo in the US.
Americans are more open and direct than Japan, but I don't know that I'd say they're particularly open and direct -- about the only thing I'd say Americans are uniquely is boisterous. But that's probably still only among the developed world.
In the Czech republic people don't talk as much and generally these situations occur rarely. And the example that I gave of the people in the park just doesn't happen in the Czech republic. There is no requirement to invite someone someplace just because you are going there yourself.
That wasn’t the effect you were demonstrating above. It was more “you have to invite [friend A] if you invite [friend B] from the same social group, unless you want [friend A] to think that you value them less than [friend B].”
Which is sometimes obviously what you want them to think—if you have known [friend B] for years and you’ve just joined the group that introduces you to [friend A], then hanging out solely with [friend B] (in a way that [friend A] will find out about, like by inviting them in front of them) is a way to assert that you’d like [friend A] to get to know you better, because you’re still not at the level where you feel comfortable adding them to your more close-knit friend group yet.
The problem comes when you’ve just joined a group and so only know everyone equally well (i.e. not that well), and yet only invite some of the group members somewhere anyway. This reads like the signal above, but without a justification: the people you chose to invite out did nothing to “deserve” the choice, and there’s no obvious thing (like more shared conversation) that you’re signalling that you’d like out of the people you didn’t invite. It can seem like you’re just sociopathically playing members of the group against each-other to win your favour.
But that’s really the only scenario where this applies: when picking a subset of acquaintances, from a shared group, to do something with that is usually reserved for friends. (It does come up a lot, because a “pool of shared acquaintances” describes a school pretty well. But it’s not nearly as much of a “thing” outside of that.)
I'm not sure how best to describe the difference. When I talk to Japanese "friends", I feel that I am talking to a mask, or that they're playing a part. In the States, on the subjects that we are open with, we seem to want to show our true selves, whatever that may mean. In Japan I feel that every aspect of your communication is guarded.
The most sincere and interesting discussion were late into the night where half the people were sleeping under the table and the few left awake were articulating thoughts they had very deep in heart.
There’s of course the part where everyone is a bit more lubricated, but there’s also the social protection of “being drunk” that helps to shield from repercutions if we step too far on people’s feelings.
I found this specially true for people who are pretty strong to alcohol, and tend to wait for these “end of party” moments to start discussing intimate feelings, even if they are still almost sober.
At least part of his position is true though -- the education system really doesn't cultivate critical thinking or original thought (other than the elite prep schools which are great at fostering individuality).
This actually sounds like something that could be spun into a separate startup in Japan - people who will pretend to be you in intense politeness-related scenarios.
They could probably correct the problem by just sending an escort along with the error-committer, but maybe this kind of thing doesn’t happen enough for them to really care.
Just dont take credit for work that is not yours. Basically if asked dont lie. But if you are never asked then it seems the boss does not care of the details.
1. Asiana crash. Copilot did not want to tell pilot the approach looked wrong, and they flew into the ground. https://thediplomat.com/2013/07/asiana-airlines-crash-a-cock...
2. Fukushima and Tepco. Nobody wanted to say, "oops we messed up, might want to evacuate."
The fake groom for a wedding is just a workaround for a cultural issue, maybe not uniquely Japanese. The society requires a groom, so here is one. I wonder how many politicians today have fake family lives due to similar reasons, for instance.
But there are other situations, like fake boyfriends/girlfriends. What the company provides here is trust, sort or removing counter-party risk. The client needs to know that the friend will confirm to certain protocol, will be in a certain way. Many people would do that for free, but the actors are guaranteed to do that. If there was some mechanism to establish that kind of trust without the company, that would be nice. Without that trust, its just the usual dating, of course.
And then, there is a commitment aspect. That man acted as a father for 8 years. The must have been growth in that relationship. The actor and the girl developed an inner world in which they exist, are part of each other's lives,
and, the girl at least, relies on him to be there in the future. Many man could probably act as fathers for some time, but 8 years, they'd actually have to want to be fathers.
edit: maybe its worth adding that this is not a suggestion that that business is a good thing overall. Just an attempt at the analysis of why it might be "booming" (if it indeed statistically is).
Am I missing something? Is this a typo? This isn't just cultural; how can there be a wedding, without a bride and groom?
> With a burgeoning staff of 800 or so actors, ranging from infants to the elderly, the organization prides itself on being able to provide a surrogate for almost any conceivable situation.
Infants!! Reminds me of a Jim Carrey movie - The Truman Show.
This whole interview was way more gripping than I expected it to be.
> For them, it’s a lot of hassle and disappointment. Imagine investing five years with someone and then they break up with you. It’s just easier to schedule two hours per week to interact with an ideal boyfriend.
> I don’t have a real girlfriend right now. Real dating feels like work. It feels like work to care for a real person.
I see this a lot and I'd like to see what kind of technology you think exists here and has an impact on daily life here that doesn't exist/have an impact elsewhere.
Japanese technology that reaches the west is often the high-concept/prototype kind that definitely does not have any daily impact on anything, urban or rural.
The most ubiquitous pieces of technology I can think of that exist here that do not exist elsewhere are:
1. washlets (fancy bidets)
2. suica (cashless payment via touching a card)
and while neither of those exist as such elsewhere, similar things do... and neither of those really impact Japanese society to such a degree that I would consider Japanese society to be a "glimpse into the future of western society."
To me, Western society seems to be much further along any curve of alienization, with automatic cars and outsourced phone support (Japanese being a niche language, you're almost guaranteed to be talking to a real Japanese person for phone support).
One of the reasons I'm responding to this so strongly is that I dislike the continued "exotification" of Japan as some kind of strange, ineffable future-land and really strive to correct that kind of opinion wherever I can. It's nothing personal, but it only hurts all parties involved when Japan is seen in this light.
Probably needs "major" after "all" there. There's plenty of reasonably sized shops et al that haven't quite got around to contactless machines yet (Holland and Barrett, Ryman, etc.)
Strange to say technology has no impact on American lives spent entirely in front of TVs and steering wheels.
Why do you say that? Fax machines are still in regular use in Japan, as are flip phones.
I fail to fully relate to this sentiment. I get that a failed relationship that you've invested huge amounts of time in is heart breaking. It seems logical (albeit unhealthy) to thus stop chasing real relationships. What I then don't understand: Why is having a fake relationship preferable to one that might go south?
Either the "real" relationship turns out to be "fake". In that case the one that is "fake" from the beginning is no better. That is, the upshot is no true soulmate in both cases. Or, the "real" relationship turns out to be great. In that case the acceptance of uncertainty will pay dividends.
To me it seems that these people don't actually want a real relationship because no real relationship can come with the limited amount of attributes they desire. It's like they're complaining about an awesome Italien Pizza because it doesn't match a frozen one.
It's worth noting that most Japanese people would find this a pretty weird thing, I think -- it's not normal. I can't imagine that it would actually work out well if you got found out.
On the other hand my particular social bubble is inherently biased so it could well be this happens all the time and I have no idea.
Another commenter posted that the company is listed as "Established April 1 2009" but that is likely just for financial reasons, as April 1st is the start of the financial year.
That said, while the company is real I don't think it is common or in widespread use. I've never had a conversation about such a company or heard of anyone ever using one in the past few years in Japan. Remember, the media often likes to play up the "Weird Japan" angle.
(Of course, if they were doing their job perfectly then we would never know about it...)
My first exposure to this phenomenon was in March of 2016 right here on HN.  The linked article there was more in the vein of journalistic confession/reportage and like this linked article, it is a fantastic read. 
The article is about a single company not nationwide trend.
Let me also add that coming from the USA I wasn't familiar with paying for companionship except for the idea of escorts which I've never hired and had mostly been led to believe were just fronts for prostitution.
After leaving the USA I found may countries, including Japan, have host/hostess clubs where you pay to have someone to talk (and flirt) with you. They exist in many countries, not just Japan, nor just Asia. I talked to Ukrainian hostesses in Turkey. My point is paying for companionship is common in much of the world.
you'll find "establishment: april 1, 2009"
i think this is well written fiction
Other countries do that with us too. Foreigners think that all americans carry guns, wave flags and settle disputes with a duel.
The media latches on to a fringe subculture in japan and then paints it as the norm. It would be like japanese media finding some fringe culture like furries and then making it seem like all americans are furries.
So this isn't just a Japanese thing. Just as I think that most people in the US would find hiring a bridesmaid in the US to be a little bit weird, I'm sure most people in Japan would feel the same way about the service described here.
I can't believe someone would be willing to do that to someone for $50/hr.
I find it hard to dismiss the concept completely. There are times when help is needed and perhaps sometimes this deception is better than having no help at all. I feel conflicted.
Still crappy, but less crappy than learning your dad was a $200/month actor that had no actual emotional investment in you.
I don't understand how someone could rationalize this to themselves as ethical. I hope the interviewer is just lying.
the whole thing is just an interview/dialogue, but it's incredibly captivating
also, you could make three separate movies on existentialism just with ideas from the article.
lastly - the interviewee, he must have such strong philosophical dilemmas
We already have commercial close day to day relationships like daycare, teachers, taking care of elderly. Then we have therapists and prostitution. Many lonely people have only workplace friendships that are more artificial than the importance they have in the life of lonely people.
But these are all fundamentally honest relationships with defined roles in the society. If a mother wants tho hire father figure for her child, I think the relationship should be honest towards the child and not based on lie. "Hired uncle" would be honest.
'Santiago wakes up like any other morning. He goes down to the kitchen and his whole family is waiting for him: it's his birthday. They all sing "Happy Birthday to You" and give him presents. But when he opens the present of his youngest son, he gets angry and says he doesn't like it. The boy starts crying and saying that he loves him, but Santiago answers that he doesn't believe him and he tells the boy that he is fired and that he wants another son, who is thinner, who doesn't need glasses and who resembles him more.'
Does anyone have a link to this "Family Romance" corporation? Where is the proof?
Why would the guy be so ruthlessly candid about his immoral failings? Why does he talk in a carefully manicured, but cruel and amoral way -- why is he dissing his own product? Why would he plaster his face on The Atlantic when he depends on anonymity? They have 800 employees -- that's large; why haven't we heard of this before? Why is he so knowledgeable about what English-speakers don't know about Japan and so able to help us understand -- has he lived and studied extensively abroad? Why is he able to understand what he does is immoral but is unwilling to change even as it affects him so deeply -- why doesn't he get a new job? What would happen to his clients if he decided to stop working for them -- how legally binding would his contract be? Is he legally obligated to keep lying even if he changes his job -- that's impossible, right? No one is legally obligated to lie. Is the business really "booming" when it seems to be so unknown -- and, in fact, relies on keeping a low-profile for maximum effectiveness? How did the clients find them -- and how did everyone else not find them?
Where are other, reliable articles about this? The only other source I find is The Sun and people have mentioned Yahoo! Answers, which aren't reliable sources. Can someone in Japan confirm this?
It screams of fictional writing.
Regarding the point about the interviewee supposedly being knowledgeable about what English speakers don't know, have you ever seen raw transcripts of a typical newspaper interview? The interviewer and translator (and there almost certainly was one: the English is far too idiomatic, and the person who ultimately penned the article seems to not even know that Japanese names are given surname-first, given how the article is written as if Yuichi were the surname) probably provided a lot of leading that was ultimately left out, or even added in explanations of their own.
The writing is definitely more self-aware and humorous than you would expect from an American in the same situation.
A website could be manufactured if this is part of a clever viral campaign for some dystopian book or film.
Where is reliable proof? Can someone in Japan confirm this?
So I would only think it is fake, because he openly speaks about it. Advertisement I suppose, but counterproductive for his clients. But maybe he also don't want to put it up anymore and just focus on the management part?
If true, it seems an odd mix of outcomes for a national psyche, but perhaps it can be explained.
How would a society become both isolated and entitled? Are they independent outcomes with independent causes? Correlated by some common cause? Or did one cause the other?
That is so much different than Renting a Friend....
>For them, it’s a lot of hassle and disappointment. Imagine investing five years with someone and then they break up with you. It’s just easier to schedule two hours per week to interact with an ideal boyfriend. There’s no conflict, no jealously, no bad habits. Everything is perfect.
The fundamental problem with being human is that there are other humans. They're so unpredictable to deal with. Let's hope the AI finally comes soon, at least you can save/reload those.
Ethical questions aside, this is dangerously brilliant. Better hope the actual Yakuza doesn't find out...
The article already describes the problem but not really the consequences which must be devastating.
IMHO this practice should became illegal and if at all there should be programs or even companies to fix the actual problems.
Also check out his newer movies like The Lobster... really good movies!
Creating new memories, new reality because the one people are living is just not good enough....
I feel like this is what the logical endpoint of total capitalism would look like- things have been headed in this direction for a while with first the making of household items, and farming, then the preparation of food (restaurants) and the raising of children (schools) now performed by paid labor. I guess it could go even farther, one could imagine a future in which all relationships are mediated through money.. it's not a future I like.
The main character works for a similar company to the one mentioned in the article. Not sure if there was a precedent at the time of the film's writing. Looks like fiction has become reality.
same username on twitter
translated to english, you will find in the page:
Establishment: April 1, 2009
the only reason i would consider this real at all is because "Japan", but i can't buy this
this must be an (enjoyable) work of fiction
Regardless of the social weirdness, I wonder how often a service like this is used for straight-up fraud?
Why didn't interviewer get into the logistics of being able to rent a human infant!? This is perhaps the most inconceivable aspect of this business.
Any guesses on the logistics and safety protocols for renting one's infant?