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  • September 17, 2016

4 Strange But Awesome Business Ideas from Japan

Japan has never failed to deliver on charmingly unusual businesses. From animal cafes to theme restaurants, there is enough to choose from to keep yourself amused. But you have to ask how these businesses got to where they are today. Every one of them began with a really good idea.

Today we’ll look at four business ideas from Japan. They aren’t all in the same stage of development as a business; they range from pre-launch (as of the writing of this article) to fully operational. But undoubtedly they are all just as strange as they are awesome.

Rent Out Boyfriends to Single Ladies

User story: Between your job, your commute, and more of your job, there isn’t a lot of time in your life to find a date. Somehow, this Thursday there’s a three-hour gap between the end of work and the latest possible time you can go to bed. So you hop online and book a date. No, you’re not finding a date; you’re booking one. He’s already there, ready to go — on your schedule, on your terms. There are plenty to choose from, but this time it’s the slender fellow with the dimples. A few clicks later and you’re set for your date.

The service: Rental Kareshi is an online dating service where you pay an hourly rate to go on a date with one of their “rental boyfriends”. The service appeals to the companionship aspect of dating — there are very strict rules governing physical contact. Prices range from ¥7000 to ¥10,000 ($70 to $100 USD) per hour, depending on the assumed quality of the boyfriend. Each boyfriend has a portfolio so extensive that the NSA would be lucky to have as much personal information: age, Twitter account, customer reviews, Q&A, hometown, pets… It’s the most front-loaded dating experience that money can buy.

Why it’s awesome: It streamlines dating into a simple, transparent process. Sure, it still seems a bit lazy to rent someone when you really should be using Tinder but think of the value: you get a full vetting of your boyfriend, you know the exact terms and conditions of the date, and there’s a professional company behind everything which wants to keep you very happy. And don’t let anyone call you sad for using this — at least you didn’t sift through handfuls of cretins you met online before going out with the least creepy of the bunch.

Put Tourists to Work for Free

User story: You’ve been saving up vacation time over the last few years and have finally made it to Japan for a well-deserved two-week vacation. It’s time to spend your hard-earned pay doing what you’ve always wanted to do — work for free. So off you go to Takayama, Gifu to be a tour guide. No, you’re not taking the tour; you’re the one giving it. Up a waterfall. While wearing full protective gear and a safety harness. You’ve never been climbing before, but off you go anyway.

The service: Tabi Job allows you to experience a day-in-the-life of a traditional Japanese professional or artisan. Some jobs lend themselves more naturally to a tourist experience, like cooking or craftmaking, while others are a little more offbeat, like farming or guiding a tour. Most jobs that let you experience a traditional vocation are located outside major cities, letting you experience rural areas in ways most people don’t. Some jobs are unfortunately only available in Japanese, but this just adds to the authenticity.

Why it’s awesome: Unlike many other tourist services, it is not patronising. When you farm, for example, you actually farm. This includes climbing a tree to prune the branches and turning in a harvest at the end of the day. Sure, it seems like “work” but that’s the whole point. When’s the last time you sold snacks out of a kitchen cart?

Make Women Cry, Charge Them to Dry Their Tears

User story: You’re at your office in a meeting room with several other women, watching a video of a girl coping with the loss of her dog. There’s not a dry face in the room. The video ends. Still teary, you are all instructed to stand against the wall. In walks an effeminate but attractive young man, who one by one goes up to every lady in the room, puts one hand on the wall behind her, looks her right in the eyes, and gingerly dabs her tears dry. Then he leaves. And you’re happy.

The service: Another female-only service, Ikemeso Danshi helps working women deal with the stresses of office life. It does so by arranging semi-ceremonial sessions where women are induced to cry, then an attractive male comes along and dries their tears in the most sensuous way he can while still keeping a straight face. The name of the company itself says it all: Ikemeso is a portmanteau of “ikemen” (and attractive guy) and “mesomeso” (crying). And there is a healthy selection of guys to choose from, ranging from hunky to cute to someone who dresses up like a dentist.

Why it’s awesome: Japanese work culture offers a lot of outlets for salarymen to blow off steam. And while women own the Sunday brunch scene, there are not a lot of female-oriented options to more directly tackle the issue of work-related stress. Not only does Ikemeso Danshi utilise crying as an effective emotional coping mechanism but it provides a service in the workplace, where it’s needed.

Allow Strangers to Locate Your Home So They Can Relieve Themselves on Your Toilet

User story: It’s 2:00 in the morning and you wake up to a knock at your front door. You stumble over and look through the peephole to see who it is. There stands a complete stranger, peering right back at you as if he knows you’re looking at him. Instead of calling the police or alerting your spouse to the situation, you open the door and show this person where the bathroom is. He walks in, does his business, then leaves – but not before the two of you complete a quick transaction over your smartphones which nets you a whopping ¥400 (about $4 USD).

The service: This ¥400 can be yours through the magic of Every2nd by Double C. It’s a pretty simple concept: you register your restroom online and anyone who has installed the app can then find it. Payment is made through the app, which both parties have installed. The service seems to be aimed at exactly the people who you think would use it: those who have had too much to drink and people who can’t find their way around.

Why it’s awesome: Because there’s actually a need for it. The availability of restrooms is hit-and-miss in Japanese cities and if you have to change your baby’s diapers good luck. What’s more, transit in most cities shuts down shortly after midnight despite the fact that there’s actually a lot to do after that time. So not only do you lose access to train station toilets, you might not make it home to use yours. In a way, the lack of proper bathroom infrastructure has created a legitimate demand for a service like this.

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