After a short-lived career in entertainment, aspiring stand-up comic Kotani Makoto ended up as a homeless person in Tokyo, Japan about four years ago.
Narrating his story to Tofugu’s Koichi, Makoto revealed how he is able to make ends meet by being a homeless guy for rent for just ¥50 (45 cents) a day.
“I haven’t done that in a while now,” Makoto revealed when asked if he still lived on the streets.
“Only the first couple months were spent on the streets. That first month was tough. I used my phone to write about my homeless life on Twitter and it got a little popular. I also tried to get some part-time jobs, but the interviews didn’t go so well. Then (King Kong) Nishino-san suggested I sell myself for ¥50 per day, so I did.”Incidentally, it was comedian King Kong Nishino who gave him the idea to go homeless in the first place. The more established comic had previously let Makoto be a tenant in his home after the up-and-coming comedian moved to Tokyo and sought his help.
However, Makoto’s “messy” lifestyle — forgetting to turn off the shower, bringing dirt inside the house, and missing to pay the rent — eventually proved too much to handle for Nishino.
One day, he ended up telling Makoto: “Starting today, you should become homeless. Your life will definitely be better that way.”
And so he did.
As “Homeless Kotani”, he has slowly gained fame and now runs a website where people can book a meeting with him. Although asking for such a small fee for one full day seemed like a terrible idea, it somehow worked out for the comedian.
As it turns out, people would feel guilty about renting him for only ¥50 that they would often offer more for his “services”.
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Makoto is also willing to do a favor for his customers without payment, but instead would buy him food or a place to rest and stay for a short while. His new “homeless” lifestyle made him gain a lot of weight as he is now eating a lot more.
Makoto also shared that he gained what he calls his “worldwide family”. He told Tofugu:
“Either I’d become friends with someone who rented me and at the end of the evening they’d offer to let me stay at their place, or I’d ask on social media and someone would offer. I’d be like: ‘Is there anyone who can let me stay over tonight?’ There are so many good people in the world.”
And it’s not just food and shelter that are provided by his new “family”. All of Makoto’s daily needs are provided for by his clients. His clothes, smartphone contract, and even his pocket Wi-Fi are paid for by his customers. “They just offered to pay them for me. All I could do was thank them for their offers,” Makoto was quoted as saying.
But he clarifies that he doesn’t simply receive them as handouts, but as gifts in exchange for something he does for his customers, which he says could be anything that a client requires, just as long as it doesn’t involve harming other people. “Well, I prefer an offer that doesn’t cause trouble for somebody. I don’t want to do something that will make others feel unpleasant, or bad,” Makoto explained. “But I’ll take any kind of offer as long as it is fun and it helps somebody.”
After being rented over a thousand times, he shared the “craziest job” he has ever done was posing naked for art’s sake.
“One time, I was rented to be a nude sketch model. Usually, professional nude models are muscular people doing poses,” Makoto said. “In my case, I made poses that I was told to do, and my poses were quite relaxed ones. “
But nothing beats the time he got married.
Makoto narrated how it actually happened: “I met her a few months after I became homeless. She bought me for ¥50 at first, to play tag in Nagoya station. I had ten people trying to chase me down.”
“Then another time, she bought me to go drinking. While we were drinking together, someone said to us: ‘Why don’t you go on a date?’ And she said, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if we just got married instead?’ Then we did it. Yeah, that’s how I got married to her. I don’t really think a lot. I just decide what to do in the moment by instinct. It’s funny, we actually didn’t even date once. It was just like you and me sitting here, we didn’t know each other at all.”
Using a crowdfunding website called Campfire, Makoto and his wife-to-be were able to raise ¥1,673,554 thanks to 273 people. Including other sources, they collected a total of around ¥2.5 million ( $25,000).
“At that time… I felt like… what can I say… I felt like there aren’t only bad people in this world. There’s kindness to be found everywhere,” he said.With the money, the couple was able to throw a party and rent out a theme park where around 600 people came to celebrate with them.
After the wedding, Makoto and his wife went on living their lives separately, him being homeless and her being in Nagoya. Occasionally, he gives his wife a visit when he finds himself near her hometown.
As a person who lives through the kindness of others, Makoto does not hesitate to “pay it forward” when other people need help. When a terrible earthquake devastated the Philippines a month after his wedding, he used leftover wedding money to bring food, water, soap, and around ¥1,000,000 ($10,000) to the disaster victims overseas.
“I am homeless, I have no money, I’m ugly, fat, middle-aged, and dirty but I don’t try to make those things better,” Makoto wrote in his book. “I think of these not as weak points, but as talents. What can I do with them? What we really need to find out in our lives is the best way to change our angle, so the headwind becomes the tailwind. It’s much easier and more fun to sail before the wind.”