- Started in 2009, Japanese company Family Romance hires actors to pose as people’s fake spouses, family members, coworkers, and more.
- The company was founded by Ishii Yuichi, who has since hired 800 employees.
- After eight years of leading thousands of pretend lives, Yuichi said he doesn’t date and has no interest in starting a family.
His name is Ishii Yuichi — on his off-hours, at least.
Yuichi is the founder of Family Romance, a Japanese company that hires actors to pose as people’s fake wedding dates, fake boyfriends to bring home, fake colleagues for conferences, and even fake newborn grandchildren for a dying grandparent.
Yuichi has been running the service (and participating as an actor) since 2009, Yuichi recently told The Atlantic’s Roc Morin in a wide-ranging interview.
Though it began with small-scale intentions, Family Romance has become popular in Japan’s insular society, which has struggled to stay socially connected. Over the past decade, a high-pressure work culture and tightening economy have forced some people into more reclusive lifestyles. In certain cases, Family Romance has become the solution for a shrinking social circle.
Being a fake dad is more than a full-time job
So far, Yuichi has amassed about 800 employees to fulfill just about every role imaginable. Yuichi himself has been keeping up elaborate lies for years. Since the early days of the business, he has been pretending to be the father to a young girl, whose biological father left when she was just a baby. The girl believes Yuichi is her real dad.
“Sometimes we dine together,” Yuichi told Morin of his fake daughter. “We’ve been to theme parks, like Disneyland. We go shopping in Harajuku once a month. The mother pays about 20,000 yen per four hours, plus expenses. That’s about $200.”
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