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In Japan, "rental families" provide wisdom and solace at an hourly rate

Japanese "rental family" companies
In Japan, "rental family" companies on the rise 02:55

Twenty years ago, movie-goers flocked to the Julia Roberts blockbuster "My Best Friend's Wedding." In the film, Roberts' character enlists her gay co-worker to pose as her fiancé in order to break up the wedding of the man she's secretly in love with.

Having someone stand in as friend or loved one isn't just a Hollywood fantasy anymore, people in Japan are now paying for impostors.

Ryuichi Ichinokawa runs something called a "rental family" company and business has never been better. For a fee, he and his staff will impersonate your parents, your boss, even your spouse, reports CBS News correspondent Adriana Diaz.

Ichinokawa said he's "never" been discovered.

It might sound strange, but Ichinokawa's business was immortalized in a 2012 documentary "Rental Family Inc." He says his business helps clients navigate the tricky norms of Japanese society. 

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When asked why there is so much demand for renting fake family members, he told Diaz, "The Japanese obsess over etiquette, manners and appearances a lot more than Americans. For my clients, not violating protocol is extremely important."

He recently posed as a pregnant woman's father because her real dad disapproved of her engagement. 

So Ichinokawa stood in. His client said he saved the marriage.

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Across town, another rental is in progress. For $10 per hour, a proudly un-hip, but middle-aged guy will let you vent, and offer his worldly wisdom. This time, self-proclaimed "old-fogey" Takanobu Nishimoto is serving up life lessons. Today, it's dating advice. 

Nishimoto sees clients almost daily, proving "over-the-hill" is underrated.

"It's because I'm a total stranger that clients can unload even deep, dark secrets," Nishimoto told Diaz. "They'll say, 'I can't breathe a word of this to anyone I know.'"

In Japan's unusual rental universe, sometimes the services are provided on four legs, instead of two.

At Tokyo's "Dog Heart" shop, patrons plunk down cash to hang out with oodles of poodles, beagles and a golden retriever named Rika.

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"Japanese are uncomfortable about borrowing things like a dog or a car from a friend." said owner Yukiko Tsuchiya. "So it's simpler to rent from a company."

Delivery worker Yoshito Yamaguchi is one of her most loyal customers. He travels an hour each way every month to get his canine fix.

"Playing with the dogs is relaxing," Yoshito told Diaz. "It gives me energy to get back to work."

For the pet-deprived and the status-obsessed, the lovelorn and the confused, in Japan at least, you can rent for that. 

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