Book Review: ‘Rental Person Who Does Nothing’ by Shoji Morimoto

Book cover of ‘Rental Person Who Does Nothing’ by Shoji Morimoto

Shoji Morimoto knows exactly what he wants to do with his life; nothing at all. He explains his new way of life in his memoir ‘Rental Person Who Does Nothing’.

The 38 year old Tokyo man spends his days doing nothing with strangers. He accompanies people signing divorce papers and people too scared to visit a cafe on their own. He holds the perfect spot in the park until his clients arrive, or pets friendly dogs. As long as he’s doing ‘nothing’, Morimoto is happy. He calls himself Rental Person, a business he created that allows others to hire him out to do nothing. 

‘Rental Person Who Does Nothing’ is a memoir that details Shoji Morimoto’s most memorable clients, his thoughts on society and the many things he doesn’t like (he prefers to keep the few things he does like to himself). So that Morimoto could continue to do nothing, he even got someone else to ‘write’ his memoir. He hired an editor and a writer, who wrote the book by asking Morimoto questions about his life and work. They then took those answers and collated them into what feels like a self-written memoir. 

Shoji Morimoto, or Rental Person, as he often refers to himself, used to work in a fast-paced work environment with very high expectations. He found it difficult to meet these expectations and dedicate as much of life to work as his coworkers did. As a result, his boss constantly berated him with comments such as ‘you’re a permanent vacancy’ and ‘it makes no difference whether you’re here or not’. It was these kinds of comments that opened Morimoto’s mind to his true calling; doing nothing. From here, Rental Person was born, beginning with a simple tweet made by Morimoto.

The tweet advertised himself as someone who cannot do anything but be present and provide very simple responses. All clients need to pay for is transport and food if necessary. For the actual ‘work’ he does, he charges nothing, which he thinks is appropriate. He is doing nothing after all. 

Rental Person now has over 100,000 followers, and has accepted over 4000 requests since his first tweet in 2018. He generally completes three client requests per day, and then shares details of his experiences on his twitter (but keeps client’s personal details private so they can’t be identified).

The obvious question is why would anyone want to hire someone to do nothing? But after reading Morimoto’s memoir Rental Person Who Does Nothing, I’ve learnt that there are many ways one can do “nothing”. When I explained the premise of Rental Person to my mum she thought it was a stupid idea. I explained the kinds of things Rental Person does for people, which changed her mind. ‘That’s not nothing!’ She’s right of course. Opening your ears and allowing someone to speak about their troubles is not nothing, and nor is providing company to the lonely. But as Rental Person points out, money rules our world. We are considered to be wasting our time or doing ‘nothing’ unless we are in constant pursuit of it.

‘In one of Aesop’s fables, a character longs to tell a secret and so tells it to the reeds. I’m just there, like those reeds.’

Excerpt from ‘Rental Person Who Does Nothing’ by Shoji Morimoto

Morimoto reflects on his time working and the impacts that a capitalistic society has had over his family. His sister struggled very much to find the right job, and ultimately took her own life. ‘I felt the value of my precious siblings being warped and eroded because of the expectations of society. From society’s point of view, were they ‘productive’ in any measurable way? The answer must be ‘no’. For me, though, she had value simply because she was there.’

Morimoto often mentions what a shame it is that so many of us are so preoccupied with money and commodifying ourselves in order to feel ‘happy’. He insists that people are much more than their marketable skills, and that it’s okay to not always be striving towards something better. When asked what his ‘dream’ was, he replied, ‘living without doing anything’, which is already a reality for him. Rental Person knows how to be happy with what he has and where he is. He only wishes more people shared the sentiment.

In one case, Rental Person received three different requests to accompany a client to the Emperor’s birthday celebration, but he was busy that day. He posted his problem on X, and a follower commented, suggesting that the three just go together, which they did. Again, by doing nothing, Rental Person was able to help someone. There are three elements of Rental Person, Morimoto explains. Himself, the client, and the audience. Anyone in the audience can get up on stage as a client, and they can always return to the audience. The three people who decided to go to the Emperor’s birthday together are just like people who met in the audience. 

‘I really want to avoid being thought of as a good person. I’m absolutely not a good person and I don’t want people to expect me to be’. 

Excerpt from ‘Rental Person Who Does Nothing’ by Shoji Morimoto

One of my favourite Rental Person stories I read about in this book, was the request to give a dog attention while its owner took it for a walk. The owner/client felt bad that people always ignored their happy friendly dog when going on walks, so asked Rental Person to walk past them on their way and shower the dog with attention and pats, so he did. 

Morimoto believes that people should be able to live their lives just as they want, without the influence of society or money. He likens it to being like a baby. Babies do what they want. It spits out the food it doesn’t want. It cries when it’s sad and sleeps when it’s tired. But then babies grow up, he says, and are forced to accept the values of the adult world and then their cuteness fades away. 

Morimoto doesn’t think its helpful to think too much about the future. He also classifies giving advice as ‘doing something’ and so doesn’t give it. But when a student client requested that Rental Person listen to his worries about the future, the client asked ‘Is there anything you’d advise me to do while I’m still a student?’ 

Just this once, Rental Person allowed himself to give advice. ‘No, I don’t think you have to do anything.’ 

Jacinta Rossetto
Jacinta Rossetto

Jacinta Rossetto is a writer, artist and editor studying Creative Writing at QUT. Her passion project is a little something called Dawn Street Zine, a zine that she writes, designs, produces and scouts content for. Her favourite genres to write in are gothic and literary fiction.

Articles: 24

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