The man who gets paid for doing nothing at all – and has now authored a book he didn’t write
- Shoji Morimoto, from Japan, is so good at doing nothing, he’s made it his job
- READ MORE: Japan is an enthralling mix of historic traditions and cultural quirks
RENTAL PERSON WHO DOES NOTHING
by Shoji Morimoto (Picador £14.99, 160pp)
‘I’m an amateur writer and at the moment I’m writing a novel. When I’m writing on my own, I often get a bit lazy, so I’d like someone to watch me. I wonder if you would sit in front of me while I work. I may say something to you occasionally, but basically I’d just like you to sit there and pass the time.’
This simple and somewhat odd request is commonplace for Shoji Morimoto, a 39-year-old freelance writer from Japan.
Many people dream of a life where they get paid to do nothing at all, or at least very little. This is a reality for Morimoto, aka Rental Person Who Does Nothing.
Dispirited by the monotony and repetition of his freelance writing work, and having quit every job he’s ever had and always been told he was a ‘do-nothing’ by former bosses and co-workers, Morimoto decided that, since he was so good at doing nothing, he may as well do it full-time.
He tweeted his idea, offering himself up as a service to be rented out, as long as it essentially involved doing… well, nothing.
Many people dream of a life where they get paid to do nothing at all, or at least very little. This is a reality for Morimoto
‘Maybe there’s a restaurant you want to go to, but you feel awkward going on your own. Maybe a game you want to play, but you’re one person short… I can’t do anything except give very simple responses.’
Within ten months, his 3,000 followers had jumped to 100,000 (he currently has more than 400,000) and he has since been hired by more than 4,000 people.
He initially charged just expenses for travel and food, but now, to avoid time wasters and to reduce the volume of requests, the price of Rental Person’s company is 10,000 yen — roughly £60.
Jobs can be straightforward, such as joining a client for an ice-cream soda — ‘I know how awkward it can be for a Japanese man to go into a cafe on his own and order an ice-cream soda, so I said “Yes” straight away’ — or accompanying someone when they go to file their divorce papers (‘It was an interesting day for me. I felt I’d accompanied her from one stage of life to the next’).
Others are less so, from being asked to visit someone in a suicide unit of a hospital after a drug overdose, to the man who hired him so he could share something he felt he couldn’t tell anyone else: that he’d killed someone.
‘Since then, I think I’ve looked at people in a different way, realising that even the most ordinary, upright-looking people are not what they seem.’
Some people find it easier to work or study if another person is there.
Others use Rental Person’s impending visit as an excuse to finally clean their homes after months of avoiding it.
And some are simply bored, lonely or want to be listened to.
Within ten months, his 3,000 followers had jumped to 100,000 (he currently has more than 400,000) and he has since been hired by more than 4,000 people
Although he didn’t actually write the book, as this would be ‘doing something’ — he was interviewed by a writer and editor and gave very simple responses
There’s a lovely irony that the man who was made to feel like a waste of space has ended up with such a fulfilling and unique job, and earned some £215,000, all from ‘doing nothing’. Stock image used
Although Rental Person has undeniably helped many people, acting as a sort of companion, therapist and lunch date all rolled into one, he denies he is altruistic — and says this was the case even when he didn’t charge for his services.
‘I really want to avoid being thought of as a good person,’ Morimoto writes. ‘I’m absolutely not a good person and I don’t want people to expect me to be. Rental Person has been described as “a new-age gigolo” and “a new-age beggar”. I think being a gigolo or beggar are potential ways of relating to people, and the word “new” sounds good, so I feel quite positive about these comments.’
Although he didn’t actually write the book, as this would be ‘doing something’ — he was interviewed by a writer and editor and gave very simple responses — Morimoto has a detached charm and honest self-deprecation that means you can’t help but like him. ‘I have, as usual, done nothing. I have simply watched, with interest and surprise, as this book has developed.’
There’s a lovely irony that the man who was made to feel like a waste of space has ended up with such a fulfilling and unique job, and earned some £215,000, all from ‘doing nothing’.
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