The Changing Landscape of Male-Dominated Institutions
The cultural shift in male-dominated institutions has created a unique opportunity for women. However, it is clear that they still face discouragement when it comes to taking on leadership positions, according to Fruhstuck. The business owner, Nishimoto, believes that his rental service can help restore the reputation of middle-aged men, but it remains to be seen whether it will be successful. Currently, Nishimoto’s website receives around 45 inquiries per day, with 10 encounters per year. The service has gained popularity, boasting almost 80 “uncles” in 36 cities, including Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and Tokushima. These women mentors come from diverse backgrounds, including finance, real estate, marketing, and research. Since the inception of the service, Nishimoto himself has met or been rented by approximately 5, clients. While the payment is only symbolic, it serves as a gesture of respect between the clients and the uncles. Nishimoto receives numerous inquiries from aspiring professional uncles every week, with an estimated 10, applicants for the job. However, only 78 individuals currently fulfill this role. When selecting uncles, Nishimoto prefers those who are “weird” and have faced various challenges in life.
Catering to Different Preferences
Nishimoto has observed that the most popular uncles are those who appear gentle and possess good listening skills. Divorcees and individuals who have experienced mid-life crises and emerged stronger are also highly sought after. Surprisingly, Nishimoto discovered that eight out of ten clients are women. To cater to immediate requests, Nishimoto has introduced a branch of the rental service that can promptly fulfill these needs. However, he strictly prohibits chat sessions or phone calls, emphasizing the value of face-to-face interactions. One exceptional case is an international Skype session with Sasaki, an uncle who shares his life in central Tokyo. Sasaki works at a web technology company and has a passion for playing the violin. His favorite composers include Shostakovich, Bruckner, Sibelius, and Beethoven. Although Sasaki mainly works in the IT industry, he prides himself on being a shogi enthusiast—a form of Japanese chess. Sasaki is typically rented out once a week for shorter durations compared to other uncles. However, he occasionally receives unusual requests, such as playing the violin for five minutes at a birthday party for a teenager fascinated by Korean pop stars. Sasaki also accompanied a woman in her 50s to her dance recital and played shogi with a man who found it challenging to do so due to a disability.
Not All Encounters Are Fulfilling
Despite the variety of experiences, not all encounters provide the desired motivation. For example, Sasaki was once invited to play the violin at a New Year’s Eve event exclusively attended by nursery school teachers. Although some of the attendees were beautiful, Sasaki found their conversations reminiscent of a Japanese version of ‘Sex and the City’—very open. It is important to note that Nishimoto emphasizes a strict no-touching policy, and the uncles are not intended for intimate purposes. While researcher Fruhstuck remains skeptical, it is worth examining the website more closely to understand its true nature. At the end of the day, hiring a random person from a website might sound creepy to most people.
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