Some of the jobs on offer in Japan are odd, to say the least. It’s a nation whose unique culture provides some equally unique employment opportunities. Here are 10 odd jobs that could only exist in Japan.
10. Rent an Uncle
The Ossan Rental service was founded in 2012 by Takanobu Nishimoto.
As a man of fifty himself, he hadn’t realised how little respect middle-aged men had as a social group in Japan. But then he overheard a group of young girls laughing at a man’s hairy ears on a commuter train. He thought ‘I need to regain the honour of Ossan’ – that’s middle-aged men – and prove they still have their uses in today’s society.
The Japanese image of masculinity has been tested a number of times in recent history. First with their soldiers being defeated in the Second World War, then with their sharply dressed businessmen losing their jobs in a series of economic crashes. According to Nishimoto, the Ossan are now being portrayed in popular culture as ‘backward, stodgy and uninteresting.’
Whether this start-up business can increase the Ossan’s social standing is a tricky question to answer. But Nishimoto himself has been rented out by 5,000 clients since starting the service and on his database he has over eighty ‘uncles’ in over thirty-six cities.
Eight out of ten times these uncles are rented by women. 30 per cent of these are just after some manual lifting, whilst the other 70 per cent want advice or emotional support from someone they won’t have to meet at family functions. All for only 1,000 yen an hour, that’s about $9. Sounds like a bargain.
9. Bad Odour Regulator
For most people, bad smells are considered just part and parcel of everyday life. Unpleasant, sure – but often unavoidable. But the Japanese do things differently, and even have a law against bad smells. People are forbidden to annoy others with offensive odours – whether they’re from cooking food, keeping pets, or…bodily functions.
Basically, whatever you’re doing, if your neighbour thinks it smells, you might get a visit from your local olfactory measurement operator, that is… the smell police – one odd job in Japan. And this is no minor thing… anyone discovered to be breaking the law risks a prison sentence of up to a year or a 500,000 yen fine – about $4,500.
Bad odour regulators can earn up to $48,000 a year after a rigorous interview process to ensure they have a normal sense of smell. This involves sniffing five different chemicals containing the odours of everything from rose petals to, well, human excrement. Each person is given five strips. Two have been dipped in smells and the other three have been dipped in an odourless paraffin.
They then sniff out the smells and are given a score according to strict guidelines. Those with the most sensitive noses get the job!
8. Professional Apologiser
Who enjoys saying sorry? In the United States, an apology isn’t an apology if a person’s secretary sends flowers. But then again we might also just brush the incident off if we know the person didn’t mean it. But apologies work differently in Japan. In fact, the Japanese often apologise without even seeking forgiveness: just to be polite. The Japanese believe that a harmonious society puts others needs above that of the individual – and that every action has a knock-on effect on those around them. But it goes deeper still. Japan has a rich cultural history which remembers the Samurai and the strength of character an apology shows.
Thanks to their complicated language, there are many different ways to apologise depending on the circumstances and using the wrong verb or pronoun in a situation can be downright rude. But fear not, you can pay someone to say sorry for you! ShazaiyaAiga charges 25,000 yen – about $230 – for a face to face apology and 10,000 yen – $92 – for an email or phone apology.
Some agencies offer a range of services, including an apology whilst crying – which is particularly effective against angry people apparently. It still feels like a bunch of flowers brought by someone’s secretary to me though…
7. Subway Pusher
A subway pusher is probably the most well-known odd job in Japan. Their transport system is world-famous for its punctuality and capacity: with 8 million people travelling by subway every day. This many people on the move creates plenty of jobs for Oshiya, train station attendants who literally push people into packed trains with their trademark white gloves.
As the train prepares to leave, the Oshiya hold back as passengers squeeze in through the doors of the packed train carriages. Then, up to four of these subway pushers shove – in a professional manner, of course– another 10 or so passengers down inside the already packed train.
Although out of fashion by the 1920s this job actually came over from America where the staff were nicknamed ‘sardine packers’. But it’s now the Japanese that have their faces uncomfortably squeezed up against the window panes. I think I might just take the bus…
6. Rent a Homeless Man
Homeless celebrity Kotani Makoto is one of his kind… for now. The failing comedian had been staying with friends – but made for a messy housemate. So, he became intentionally homeless with the idea of cashing in on Japan’s huge human rental market. He was soon booked out thanks to his personality – despite describing himself as unreliable, sloppy and lazy. Makoto offers help with chores or will entertain you for just 50 yen – 45 cents – a day. He has over 2,500 followers on Instagram, and is often taken to fine restaurants and shows.
One client even flew him to Vietnam so he could report back on whether it was more or less humid than his home country.
5. Fake Wedding Guest
In Japan, people usually see weddings as formal events that should be attended by as many friends and family as possible. Many would expect a boss to say a few words and for other guests to take part in festivities. But what if the bride or groom isn’t very popular? And what if you don’t have a boss in today’s freelance economy? Or perhaps it’s your second wedding and you don’t want to invite the same guests? The answer is: just invite fake ones.
One company has 1000 guests on their books and provides them for 100 weddings a year. It only costs 20,000 yen – about $200 – for someone to attend your ceremony, and then for an additional 5,000 yen that person can perform a song or dance. For a further 10,000 yen you can even have them read a speech to bring a tear to your mother-in-law’s eye. That is one hell of an odd job in Japan.
4. Banishment Room Worker
While not restricted to Japan, the Japanese have social and legal constraints making it particularly hard to fire an employee. Their tradition of lifetime employment means underperforming employees get sent to a boredom room instead.
This punishment means they’re forced to perform menial tasks until they become so despondent they choose to quit. These banishment rooms are often dark, windowless basements.
Tasks reportedly include staring at a screen for 10 hours looking for irregularities in TV programming and making reports on the contents of newspapers. And this is not a fringe thing. Panasonic admitted that they have 468 workers in such departments, and while Hitachi, Sony and Toshiba admit to the practice they’re not keen to disclose numbers. There’s a fine line between this and the constructive dismissals that companies in western countries have been known to adopt.
3. Master Chicken Sexer
Correctly identifying the sex of one-day-old baby chickens can bring down the cost of the egg industry in a big way. The sad truth of modern agriculture is that male chicks are pretty much worthless, and usually just end up as dog food. So, there’s little point wasting money feeding male chicks when they’re just destined for the meat grinder. By separating male and female chickens, you can destroy them at birth and focus your investment on the more profitable egg-laying hens. Delicious… but kind of depressing, too.
Turns out sexing chickens is no easy task. Their genitalia, called vents – look pretty much identical. A novice sexer basically has a 50:50 chance of getting it right. Not ideal! With practise and help from a more experienced colleague, students gradually learn how to intuitively differentiate between male and female chicks. Now this process is still shrouded in mystery, but Japanese chicken sexers can do it with 98% accuracy, at the rate of a thousand chicks an hour.
Japan soon became the world leaders in chicken sexing and have been exporting their craft to the West since 1935. At that time Americans were only able to correctly decide the sex of 65% of birds, and at a slower rate of 400 birds an hour.
A Japanese chicken sexer has always come with a good pay packet and lots of business trips, but the job is still in the decline. The youth of today want to live in the city; and don’t find the prospect of fiddling around with chickens all that appealing. Surprising really, considering the salary can be up to 90 cents a chick – or $15,000 a month. Hopefully those high wages will reinvigorate the mysterious and intuitive art of Japanese chicken sexing.
2. Handsome Weeping Boy
Still think boys don’t cry? Well, I’ve got news for you, tough guys – it’s the 21st century and you can cry all you want. In fact, in Japan, you can even hire a handsome boy to sit and cry with you. He’ll wipe your tears away with a napkin and offer you some comforting words.
I mean, if you’re going to cry, you might as well do it properly – and there’s a whole industry in Japan dedicated to helping you do just that.
A recent poll of 38 countries found that Japanese people are the least likely to cry, mainly because of the cultural stigma around it. This is a shame because crying has been proven to remove hormones and toxins that build up in the body as a result of stress.
Yes, crying is good for you – mentally and physically. Hence the marketplace for these handsome weeping boys. Ceremonies are important in Japan too – whether it’s weddings or funerals, so the services of a weeping boy can add real atmosphere to your event.
Handsome weeping boys are paid around $55 a session and are often booked by companies to help relieve the stress among Japan’s overworked office workers.
I guess it makes a change from team-building exercises!
1. Bagel Head Injector
Now, don’t be fooled into thinking this is a mainstream craze. It isn’t. Many Japanese people will never have heard of this bizarre profession. But, in the extreme Japanese fetish scene, some people derive a strange pleasure from injecting saline fluid into their foreheads, and sometimes other body parts that I won’t mention now. This strange practice involves attaching a drip into a person’s forehead for a few hours, which slowly fills the space between the skin and the skull with liquid. Once it’s full up, the bagel head injector will press his or her thumb into the centre of the lump, creating a bagel shaped…thing… on the person’s head.
The saline fluid is safely absorbed by the body over the course of the next day or so, so it’s a harmless party trick really – albeit an exceedingly weird one. A bagel head injector is basically a type of specialist tattoo artist, so can earn around 34 million yen or $30,000 a year. Part of me wants to ask why, but then again there’s not much point because…. Well… Japan.
So, there we have it, the weirdest jobs on offer in the land of the rising sun. That bagel head thing really takes the biscuit, right? …Or should I say bagel? … Anyway, let me know which one of the odd jobs in Japan you think is the weirdest in the comments section down below, and thanks for reading!