The other “state of the nation”

#187. Attend the Flux Trend Review, which I did yesterday at the University of Johannesburg Theatre – a little spot of [architectural] light on an otherwise mostly foreboding campus (that was besides for the delicious food from the hospitality and tourism students – 10 out of 10 for the home-made biscuits). Ferial Haffajee, editor of City Press gave the opening talk, a state of the nation address that included lots of ripe bananas, a great soundtrack and even a soccerball giveaway (definitely a 2010 event trend). Maybe JZ should try that. Continue reading

Japanese job opportunities

#147. Consider the option of becoming a professional stand-in. In yesterday’s Guardian I came across a delightful piece about how “lonely¬† Japanese find solace in ‘rent a friend’ agencies”. According to Tokyo correspondent Justin McCurry professional stand-ins are part of a “growing service sector that rents out fake spouses, best men, relatives, friends, colleagues, boyfriends and girlfriends to spare their clients’ blushes at social functions.”

Ryuichi Ichinokawa charges “a modest 15 000 yen (100GBP) to turn up at a wedding party, but extra if asked to make a speech or to sing karaoke”.He even played the part of the uncle to two teenagers who needed some support on a school sports day.

And it’s not confined to the Japanese. About ten years ago we visited the Taj Mahal and kept getting asked to pose for photos with Indian families. After the third time we declined (it was starting to get a little weird). When we questioned our guide about this practice he said it was because some families thought it might elevate them socially to have their friends from Europe in the picture on the mantelpiece with them at India’s most famous landmark. On the other hand it may have been because my spouse had been mistaken for a Bollywood star by the taxi driver.

Back to Japan the number of agencies for renting friends has doubled to about 10 in the past few years, says McCurry. This period has also seen the rise of the phony friend and an increased demand for “bogus bosses among men who have lost their jobs”. I wonder what bumper sticker japanese taxi drivers are sporting? Perhaps “When days are dark, go for an hourly rate”.