I’m starting a service called Do-nothing Rental. It’s available for any situation in which all you want is a person to be there. 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. Or perhaps you’d like someone to keep a space in the park for your cherry blossom viewing party … I only charge transport (from Kokubunji Station) and cost of food/drink (if applicable). I can’t do anything except give very simple responses.
— Shoji Morimoto, Rental Person Who Does Nothing (emp. 18)

Une personne à louer qui ne fait rien, ou rien d’autre que d’être présente. Quelle étrange idée. Quelle merveilleuse idée. Mais il y a mieux :

If it was written simply by me, I think it would be too subjective. I’m very confused about what’s happened and on my own, I’d find it tough to come up with a convincing book. So we tried an experiment. A writer (S) and an editor (T) asked me questions and I gave them very simple responses, and through that process we tried to find an answer. S is not a particular fan of Rental Person. He has written objectively, and in a way that people who don’t know anything about my activities can get a clear picture. So with that as my excuse, I have, as usual, done nothing. I have simply watched, with interest and surprise, as this book has developed.
— Shoji Morimoto, Rental Person Who Does Nothing (emp. 29)

Que pourrais-je écrire au sujet d’un livre qui n’a pas été écrit par une personne qui ne fait rien ? Shoji Morimoto pousse le capitalisme en phase terminale dans ses derniers retranchements : il provoque la subsomption redoutée/rêvée par les économistes marxistes en soumettant jusqu’à sa propre existence aux lois du capital, mais pervertit les fondements du système en monétisant l’absence totale de productivité. Rental Person ne fait rien et c’est proprement révolutionnaire1.

Rental Person Who Does Nothing montre surtout la solitude croissante d’une partie de la société japonaise, même si je ne suis pas certain que ce serait bien différent chez nous. Nous n’avons jamais été aussi connectés mais nous n’avons jamais été aussi isolés, que ce soit un cliché n’empêche pas que ce soit la vérité. Alors il faut payer pour avoir un corps chaud à côté du sien, une prostitution sans sexe, mais de la prostitution quand même. J’ai souri tout du long, parce qu’il y a de la tendresse dans cette démarche absurde, d’un sourire infiniment triste.

Notes

L’habit fait la personne à louer qui ne fait rien :

My cap has been surprisingly useful since I started this do-nothing service. Aside from the obvious practical functions of warmth, protection from wind and rain, and hiding unruly hair, it also serves as something for people to look out for when they are meeting me, and best of all, it makes me look like a workman or deliveryman. Cap-wearing delivery staff are a very common sight in Japan, and though, of course, I’m not wearing a complete uniform, I think my cap helps clients relax. I feel it gives a reassuring formality to our relationship, which is nice for me too. Although they don’t know me at all, it’s as if there’s a kind of manual allowing them to handle the situation with minimal communication. And when the job’s over, I just go home, like any workman.
— Shoji Morimoto, Rental Person Who Does Nothing (emp. 408)
I didn’t have many friends as a postgraduate, so to fill in application forms I just referred to a ‘How to’ manual. I didn’t put in much effort; even so, writing about my ‘strengths’ made me feel ill. Think about it for a moment. If someone starts telling you how wonderful they are, it turns you right off. But when you’re trying to get a job, that’s what you have to do. There’s no choice. You identify your ‘good points’, call them ‘strengths’ or ‘personality’. Then, according to recruitment advertisements and websites, you’re supposed to build a career around them, ‘working in your own way’, ‘doing what only you can do’. But is life really like that?
— Shoji Morimoto, Rental Person Who Does Nothing (emp. 458)
I know I’m sounding stingy; the point is simply that building and maintaining friendships involves spending time and money. And besides financial cost, there are costs in terms of emotion and energy. Friends often lend things to each other. In Japan, this happens a lot with manga books. I did that with colleagues I got on with at the company I worked for. I’m not the type of person who wants to read something just because someone recommends it to me – I’d borrow it just because it seemed unfriendly not to. And if you borrow a book you have to read it, and when you give it back, you have to give comments. If you didn’t enjoy it, you either have to lie and say you did, or you have to choose your words very carefully so as not to harm your relationship. I find all this kind of thing very stressful.
— Shoji Morimoto, Rental Person Who Does Nothing (emp. 1 306)
The basic function of Do-nothing Rental is to provide a person for a period of time. Typical requests that go no further than this include the ‘watching’ type requests I’ve already discussed. For these I just have to be human in terms of size and shape. The spec is as simple as that.
— Shoji Morimoto, Rental Person Who Does Nothing (emp. 1 670)

  1. Mais comme toutes les révolutions, celles de Morimoto est vouée à l’échec. ↩︎