On My Radar: Would you Rent a Friend?

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IMG_1488I recently came across an incredibly interesting and deeply moving article about a service in Japan where clients can quite literally rent a friend.

Unlike prostitutes and escort services, these “friends” do not preform sexual or even romantic acts. Instead, they’re shopping buddies, dinner companions, and most importantly, a friendly face who will listen to deeply repressed woes.

The article, written by Chris Collin, does a fantastic job of explaining gaman, which is an unspoken rule in Japan that implies that you just have to deal with whatever comes your way no matter how difficult it may be. Don’t complain, and don’t expect sympathy.

Not surprisingly, this incredibly tough, stoic mentality has lead to a growing number of mental health issues in the country and  it seems that in a culture where people can’t talk about their feelings, worries, or fears, rent-a-friend services like the one featured in this article, are actually doing a lot of good.

“Not a miracle cure, no. But maybe a pressure valve. “With us,” Yumi says, “people can talk about their feelings without worrying what their real friends think.”

–  Inside Japans Booming Rent-a-Friend Industry by Chris Colin

It’s easy to be judgmental about this service at first…I’ll admit the idea seemed kind of strange, and almost funny, in the beginning….but that quickly changed when I realized that what these clients are seeking is a Band-aid for their loneliness and sometimes, serious depression.

Renting a friend is certainly not a cure for mental illness, but I love that in a single article I learned both the need for awareness about mental-health issues in Japan, and that sometimes you have to think outside of the box to do good in this world. You have to look at an issue and find the most effective way to be helpful, learn how to be useful, and then do it. In this case, it was creating a company where friendly people could preform acts of kindness for a living. It’s strange, but it’s making a difference, and reading this has definitely inspired me to think of more creative ways to be a light in this world.

Read the whole article here: http://theweek.com/articles/631927/inside-japans-booming-rentafriend-industry 

Comment with links to an article you loved recently! I’d love to check it out!
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