No Job Too Big or Too Small For the Benriya of Japan

July 25, 2008 at 10:05 am

Part actor, part handyman, the benriya of Japan are problem-solving jack-of-all trades, available for hire by companies or individuals to do jobs that are, well, a bit odd.

Benriya, which means “convenience-doer”, typically advertise in the yellow pages, online and by word of mouth, and work unlicensed from home or through an association. They might be hired to perform errands or chores, or even asked to deal with people whom the client finds unpleasant, such as a neighbor.

Sometimes benriya get hired by companies to stand in line outside shops or restaurants to make the place look more appealing to passersby. Lines are obvious indicators of popularity, of course; at the insanely well-liked Krispy Kreme in Shinjuku, customers might wait more than an hour for a delectably soft glazed. But now I have to wonder: is everyone standing there because they long for that sugary goodness, or have a few of them been sent there undercover as marketing tools? Perhaps some were hired by people who didn’t have time to stand in line and would rather pay for their donuts to be delivered.

Occasionally, benriya are asked to get really personal. It’s not unheard of for them to pose as friends at a wedding to round out a guest list or make the bride or groom appear more popular in front of the new in-laws.

If you’re single and want your family members to stop bugging you about your dating life, you could hire a benriya to act as your significant other over dinner (does that sound like a bad romantic comedy?). The possibilities are endless. There’s even a slightly risqué manga series called Benriya-san (“Mr. Convenience”), if you’d rather live vicariously.

Sarah S.

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