Clothes, critters and chums for rent in Japan
KONOMI Takahashi, a 28-year-old office worker, has a very compact wardrobe.
A total of 10 items hang on her closet rack, including four work suits, skirts and coats.
Ms Takahashi detests shopping for clothes, which is why she started using a clothes rental company last year.
For a monthly fee of 5,800 yen (S$74), she can rent up to five pieces at a time, as many times as she wants.
After wearing the clothes, she sends them back in the box they came in, unwashed.
She is among a group of people who are renting things as needed from an increasingly diverse range of services offering casual wear, pets and even a friendly ear for your sorrows.
"Since I started having fun trying out rental clothes, I've had people compliment me on my fresh fashion sense," Ms Takahashi said.
Most clothes renters are women in their mid-20s to late 30s, according to Omnis Inc, a clothes rental service based in Tokyo.
Aside from minimalists like Ms Takahashi who have few possessions, these services are a godsend for those too busy with work or children to shop for clothes.
Even pets have become another offering in the rental market.
Every weekend, housewife Rie Aoyagi, 28, visits Wanpaku Land, a pet shop and rental service in Tokyo.
Her reason for going is Asu, a two-year-old female golden retriever, whom Ms Aoyagi has rented time with nearly every week since she was a four-month-old puppy.
Ms Aoyagi lives in government housing for civil servants, where pets are banned.
Wanpaku Land rents out 16 different dog breeds at 3,000 yen for two hours, 50,000 yen per month or through other arrangements.
Its customers include young people secretly hiring a dog to break the ice on a first date to elderly people who simply want to play with one.
For people who do not take to animals, they can rent a "friend" too.
Just past 8pm on a recent weekday, a 27-year-old office worker began pouring her sorrows to a man at a cafe near JR Ebisu Station. "This just hasn't been my year," she said.
The man is Takanobu Nishimoto, a 48-year-old stylist who began Ossan Rental (middle-aged dude rental), a service that lets customers rent men in their 30s to 60s for 1,000 yen an hour.
The woman had just broken up with her boyfriend. At work, she was pulled out of the department she wanted to join.
"You're better off forgetting about men like that," Mr Nishimoto advised.
When asked about the reason for utilising middle-aged men, Mr Nishimoto said: "They tend to get brushed aside for being preachy. But I think they've been tossed around enough to know what's what, and their experience should be used to help others."
THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK