In an effort to prevent her young daughter from being marginalised by other children because she didn’t have a father, a single Japanese mother made the decision to hire an actor. The thing, however, got out of hand: in fact, it’s 10 years that brings this fiction forward.

Megumi was a very young child when her parents separated and her father has since disappeared from her life. The mother, Asako, remembers that the child started asking where her father was, but the absence didn’t seem a big problem until she was about 10 years old.

It was then that Asako noticed a change in her daughter’s behaviour. The child stopped talking to her, and refused to go to school. Her mother found out that the child was blaming herself for her father’s absence, and she had also become a victim of bullying at school, as often happens to children of single parents in Japan. Asako had a broken heart, and decided to give his daughter the thing she wanted most, a father, even if it meant lying to her.

father and daughter

Asako had heard of “hiring friends and relatives“, who sent actors to pretend to be relatives or boyfriends, but usually to make a good impression or to put an end to questions from relatives. And so she decided to rent someone to play the part of Megumi’s father.

The woman met five candidates and eventually chose Mr. Takashi, who had already played the parts of boyfriend, businessmen, friend and father, and even the groom in some (fake) marriages, so to be the father of a girl didn’t seem so complicated at the time. The man met Asako several times to understand what was required of him and he also studied several Hollywood movies to prepare for his role.

My request was very simple,” Asako said. “First of all, I wanted him to say how sorry he was that he couldn’t be in Megumi’s life until then. Besides that, I wanted him to listen to what she wanted to tell him.” Asako told her daughter that her father had remarried and now had another family, but that he had recently contacted her because he wanted to meet her. At first, the girl was shocked, but eventually agreed to meet him. “There were very complex emotions,” recalls Takashi about his first meeting with Megumi. “She asked me why I hadn’t come to see her before, and I felt her resentment.”

Despite the difficulties (also emotional) that it entailed, the meeting went well: Asako therefore decided to organise other meetings with Takashi. The actor started seeing Asako and her daughter twice a month. It didn’t take long for Megumi’s behaviour to improve considerably. She was happier, more extroverted and talkative, and she no longer refused to go to school. Asako thought that it was worth it, and decided to continue: but now it has been 10 years…

Hiring an actor has a significant cost, but it is the emotional attachment and ethical implications of pretending a relationship for over a decade that make this story controversial. For example, Mr. Takashi admits that his character and Megumi have become very close. They behave like a family and say “I love you”, but only one of them really means it. “Changing personality and identity is very important in this work,” the actor said. “But I’m human, and so, of course, it would be a lie if I said that I don’t feel any emotional conflict in saying ‘I love you’ to a child. But this is a business, I have to do it, and I have to keep reminding this to myself. “

Takashi also admits that the longer this role goes on, the more complicated it will become. For example, if Megumi, who is now a young woman, gets married and has children, she will also have to assume the role of grandfather and everything will be further complicated.

Asako, however, says he would like Takashi to continue playing the role of father for an indefinite period, that he would like to be present at his daughter’s wedding, and therefore also to play the part of his grandfather. The woman understands that many people disapprove of her choice, but believes that the illusion of having a father is still good for Megumi, and that she is therefore convinced that she did the best thing.