This Dollhouse is real: Inside Japan's rent-a-friend agency

Contributed by
Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

On the eve of this Friday's second-season premiere of Fox's Dollhouse comes news that Japan has already taken steps to create its own very real "dollhouse."

A growing sector of business in Japan rents out fake spouses, best men, relatives, friends, colleagues, boyfriends and girlfriends so that clients can avoid embarrassment at social functions, the British Guardian newspaper reports.

Best man Ryuichi Ichinokawa took his place before the assembled wedding guests, cleared his throat and for the next few minutes spoke movingly about the bride and groom. But his speech omitted one crucial fact: that he knew the beaming couple only marginally better than the waiters and waitresses serving their wedding breakfast. ...

This weekend he adopted yet another guise, as the uncle of a 12-year-old boy and his younger sister at a school sports day. He dutifully cheered them on, recorded their efforts on his handheld video camera and joined in the adult-and-child races.

If anyone asked, he would introduce himself as the children's uncle, perhaps engage in small talk, then discreetly slip away. He is unlikely to ever again set eyes on his "nephew" and "niece", or his "sister"—a divorcee whose children were being bullied at school about their absent father.

The agency is called Hagemashi Tai (I Want to Cheer You Up) ... sound like "Happiness Consultants" from HBO's Hung? ...

One agency now employs about 30 people of various ages and both sexes across Japan with the skills and personality to temporarily adopt a new identity: as the father of a boy who is in trouble at school, for instance, or the parents of a woman attending a formal match-making party. And there are 10 across the country, the newspaper reports.

One guy even posed as a girl's new beau to make her current boyfriend jealous.

What next? Kick-boxing assassins? Blind cult infiltrators with cameras in their heads?

Would you hire one of these "dolls"?