Sunday 15 September 2002

Can I have Michael call you back?

Michael Barrish was looking for an apartment. When he found one, the landlord required proof that he makes and has made considerably more money than he does and has. That he can afford the apartment and is a model tenant did not impress the landlord. It occurred to Michael Barrish that:

… if you were a “bad” person, a person who is willing under certain unfortunate circumstances to do “bad” things, you might decide to create bogus tax documents, using the handy downloadable forms provided by the IRS.

If you were a Japanese person, you would contact an aribai-ya (a professional alibi service).

The day before the Oblivio post appeared, the Mainichi Daily News WaiWai page featured a Ryann Connell item about aribai-ya (or alibiya) titled Sex, lies and alibis. WaiWai, which summarizes articles from Japan’s scandal-mongering “newsmagazines,” runs an alibiya story every couple of years. In this latest one, a girl named “Naoko” comes to Tokyo from the countryside to work in the pink trade. Once she’s saved enough money to “borrow” (i.e. rent) an apartment, she finds that Tokyo landlords regard soapland employees with the same suspicion that New York landlords show towards freelance Web developers.

A coworker suggested that Naoko contact an alibiya:

I called them immediately. They told me I work for an import company located in Shibuya and gave me a phone number. Of course, all the information was a total lie. Just in case, I got them to make me some company ID and tax withholding slips. It was perfect. My landlord thought I was just an average office worker and I had no problems borrowing an apartment.

According to the original Shukan Taishu article, 80% of the alibiya’s business comes from female sex workers having difficulty renting an apartment.

For three months worth of fake pay slips, it costs only 10,000 yen a sheet. A tax withholding slip goes for 13,000 yen. Answering phone calls while pretending to be an employee of a nonexistent company where the client claims to work is only 8,000 yen for two months. Acting as a post office box service sets back the client just 5,000 yen a month.

I suspect that Michael Barrish would find these rates more than reasonable: US$82 for the fake pay slips, $107 for the tax withholding slip, and just $66 for two months of answering the phone in the name of one’s nonexistent employer. And a lot less trouble than borrowing a typewriter to fill in the downloaded 1099s or W2s and having a friend prepare a bogus accountant’s income estimate on a letterhead you’ve had to design. (Trust the Japanese to turn George Constanza’s mythical import/export company, Vanderlay Industries, into a thriving commercial reality.)

As well as imaginary receptionists and bosses, alibiya can also supply corporeal “wedding guests,” “funeral mourners,” or the “professor” who supervised your Ph.D. studies at a prestigious university. A 1996 WaiWai story, reprinted in the anthology Tokyo Confidential, told of a Setagaya alibiya with 500 part-timers on its books: “people with theatrical ambitions, or office ladies who studied drama in college, or members of amateur theatrical troupes.”

The fee depends on the kinds of guests required—office workers, corporate executives, or refined aristocrats—but generally starts at ¥30,000 (US$246) per guest. Coincidentally or not, that’s what I’ve offered as a cash gift at each of the Japanese weddings I’ve attended, ¥30,000 being the going rate for a non-relative. It’s an intriguing reversal that the bride and groom have to pay the alibiya the same fee per guest that they would normally receive from real friends and work colleagues.

Still, who’d want to put a price on a happy wedding?

“I was kicked out of home and there was no way my parents or any relatives would turn up for my wedding,” sex shop worker Ritsuko, as we’ll call her, tells Shukan Taishu. “But my boyfriend’s family is really traditional, so they’d be mad if they knew my family regarded me as a pariah. The alibiya gathered a group of people who acted as though they were my parents and relatives. The guy acting as though he were my dad gave a really moving speech. My in-laws were so delighted, they started crying tears of joy.”

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I'd like to get a post office box in Tokyo
Also I'd like to move, but I don't want the
new landlord to know my presnt landlord.
I've had some difficulties with my present landlord. Is there any way around this.

Posted by Desi on 30 November 2002 (Comment Permalink)

This discussion is now closed. My thanks to everyone who contributed.

© Copyright 2007 Jonathon Delacour