Japanese Company Rents Out "Uncles" to Do Your Chores, Give Advice, Or Listen to You Vent

iStock
iStock

In Japan, being referred to as an ossan is not a compliment. The term is a rude way to say "uncle," and it typically brings to mind the stereotypical image of a messy, out-of-shape middle-aged man who likes to tell long stories and crack corny jokes. But one 50-year-old fashion consultant from Tokyo is trying to counter the negative connotations attached to the word with a TaskRabbit-esque service staffed by older men, according to Business Insider.

Takanobu Nishimoto launched his business, Ossan Rental, in 2012. Through his site, clients can rent an ossan for 1000 yen ($8.82) an hour to perform a wide range of services, whether it's help moving, serving as a date to a wedding, or just being someone to vent to for an afternoon. The idea is that a mature man's life experience makes him useful in a variety of situations, but Nishimoto believes that the service benefits the ossan as well, helping him gain confidence and giving him a reason to spruce up his appearance.

In the company's early days, Nishimoto himself was the only ossan available to rent, but today, customers have close to 80 uncles to choose from. Everyone on the site is personally screened by Nishimoto, both for safety reasons and to ensure their personality is a good fit for the company. (Long-winded talkers usually don't make it past the application process.) He also charges each ossan an 88.89 yen a month membership fee and requires them to sign a one-year contract.

When he founded the service, Nishimoto expected to get most of his business from young men looking for life advice. Instead, most of his clients today are women in their 20s to 50s. He receives roughly 900 reservations a month, with the most popular ossan in the database receiving 50 to 60 rental requests.

The business model has become so popular that it has already spawned copycats in Japan. (There are international variations on the idea, too—Brooklynites can "rent a mom" for $40 an hour.) If you're in Japan and want to rent from the original, visit ossanrental.thebase.in to find an ossan for hire.

[h/t Business Insider]

A 17th-Century Book With a Hidden Compartment for Poison Is Selling for $11,000

Abebooks
Abebooks

Most rare books are noteworthy for their illustrations or prose. But there's something different hiding between the covers of a folio currently for sale for $11,000 on AbeBooks: The book acts as a miniature apothecary cabinet with spaces for storing jars of poison.

The secret storage box masquerading as a manuscript was likely assembled sometime in the 19th century, Atlas Obscura reports. It uses the leather binding of Sebastião Barradas's Opera omnia, vol. III—a theology text from the mid-17th century—as its shell. Two hundred years or so after the original book was published, someone pasted together the pages and hollowed them out to make room for a discreet apothecary lab. A shelf holds four glass bottles measuring 10 centimeters high. Tiny drawers are labeled with the names of poisonous plants—such as hemlock, foxglove, and Devil's snare—in German, suggesting the book safe was crafted in Germany. On the inside of the front cover, a memento mori illustration depicts two skeletons above the Latin Bible quote "Statutum est hominibus semel mori," which means, "All men are destined to die once."

The Vienna-based antique bookseller INLIBRIS is selling the oddity through Abebooks. The sellers don't know the full backstory of the object, but they suspect it's not as dark as the skulls and poison labels suggest. Rather than being an authentic lab used by a poisoner, the book was likely made as a gag item.

The book may have been intended as a hoax, but that doesn't mean it can't be used as hidden storage today—ideally for something other than poison. Curio collectors can purchase the item for $10,924.51.

Book with secret compartment.
Abebooks

Secret compartment with bottles in book.
Abebooks

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

Cheese Made from Celebrities' Microbes Is On View at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum

iStock/bhofack2
iStock/bhofack2

London's Victoria & Albert Museum is home to such artifacts as ancient Chinese ceramics, notebooks belonging to Leonardo da Vinci, and Alexander McQueen's evening dresses—all objects you might expect to see in a world-famous museum. However, the cultural significance of the selection of cheeses now on display at the museum is less obvious. The edible items, part of a new exhibition called FOOD: Bigger than the Plate, were cultured from human bacteria swabbed from celebrities.

Though most diners may prefer not to think about it, bacteria is an essential ingredient in many popular foods. Beer, bread, chocolate, and cheese all depend on microbes for their signature flavors. Scientists took this ick factor one step further by sourcing bacteria from the human body to make cheese for the new exhibit.

Smell researcher Sissel Tolaas and biologist/artist Christina Agapakis first conceived their human bacteria cheese project, titled Selfmade, in 2013. When a chef and team of scientists recreated it for the Victoria & Albert Museum, they found famous figures to donate their germs. Blur bassist Alex James, chef Heston Blumenthal, rapper Professor Green, Madness frontman Suggs, and The Great British Baking Show contestant Ruby Tandoh all signed up for the project.

A display of the human-microbe cheese at Victoria & Albert museum
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Once the celebrities' noses, armpits, and belly buttons were swabbed, their microbiome samples were used to separate milk into curds and whey. The curds were then pressed into a variety of cheeses: James's swab was used to make Cheshire cheese; Blumenthal's, comté; Professor Green's, mozzarella; Suggs's, cheddar; Tandoh's, stilton.

The cheeses are being sequenced in the lab to determine if they're safe for human consumption. But even if they don't contain any harmful bacteria, they won't be served on anyone's cheese plates. Instead. they're being kept in a refrigerated display at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Museum-goers can catch the cheeses and the rest of the items spotlighted in FOOD: Bigger Than the Plate from now through October 20, 2019.

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