Field notes

Excuse me, uncle, are you for rent?

For $12 an hour, a middle-aged Japanese man will listen to your woes, do chores and offer advice on things like love and life. It's his way of regaining a place in society

Mr Nobuaki Tanaka (centre, in black tie), 48, an "ossan" for rent, was once "rented" as a party companion.
Mr Nobuaki Tanaka (centre, in black tie), 48, an "ossan" for rent, was once "rented" as a party companion. PHOTO: COURTESY OF NOBUAKI TANAKA
Mr Takuhiro Kimura (above), 42, charges a rate of 3,000 yen an hour as a mountain hiking companion. Another ossan-for-rent (right), this 50-year-old general manager of a pharmaceutical company offers healthy companionship with activities such as cano
Mr Takuhiro Kimura (above), 42, charges a rate of 3,000 yen an hour as a mountain hiking companion. PHOTOS: COURTESY OF "EASY UNCLE FROM SHIZUOKA", TAKUHIRO KIMURA
Mr Nobuaki Tanaka (centre, in black tie), 48, an "ossan" for rent, was once "rented" as a party companion.
Another ossan-for-rent (above), this 50-year-old general manager of a pharmaceutical company offers healthy companionship with activities such as canoeing. PHOTOS: COURTESY OF “EASY UNCLE FROM SHIZUOKA”, TAKUHIRO KIMURA
Mr Nobuaki Tanaka (centre, in black tie), 48, an "ossan" for rent, was once "rented" as a party companion.
Mr Takanobu Nishimoto.
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Men in Japan just don't get it - respect, that is. As they lose their shine as freshly-suited salarymen and shuffle into the "ojisan" (literally "uncle") category with receding hairlines and rotund beer bellies, they inevitably become the butt of jokes of high school girls.

"We're labelled as dirty, smelly old men, who are long-winded and full of lame jokes," said Mr Takanobu Nishimoto who, at age 50, cuts a slim figure and sports a floppy mop not unlike that of teenage pop idols, albeit streaked with grey strands.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2018, with the headline Excuse me, uncle, are you for rent? . Subscribe