In Japan, agencies that rent out family members are on the rise, as demand for the service increases. One such agency, Family Romance, provides actors to fill the roles of family members in the personal lives of its clients. The company has a database of approximately twelve hundred freelance actors, ranging from infants to the elderly, and prides itself on its ability to cater to any situation including weddings, family dinners or longer term commitments.
With social perception playing a large role in the decisions of many people, do services like these provide relief to people stuck in situations that would ordinarily be frowned upon, or do they deepen the message that social status and appearance are still of the utmost importance?
Might they also have a useful role to play in combatting loneliness, as older generations opt to spend time with 'rented' family members?
What are the long-term implications for family and societal structures of commercialisation and the expansion of ad hoc contractual relationships beyond the realm of prostitution?