Had a rough day? Head down to the Kabukicho district of Tokyo, where Nagurareya, the human punchbag, is more than happy to take a beating. A big hit on the streets of Shinjuku, the 37-year-old ex-boxer charges passers-by ¥1000 for one minute of uninterrupted fist exercise, during which he will not retaliate.
His real name is Akira Hareruya, and he doesn’t do this for fun. When his professional boxing career finished, Hareruya used his earnings to set up his own electrical contracting company. However, he was much worse at business than at boxing. Japan’s economic problems hit him hard, leaving him with personal debts of more than ¥200 million (roughly £1m or $2m). Rather than beat himself up about it, a friend gave him the novel idea of letting others do it.
Hareruya’s odd job briefly made him a bit of a Tokyo tourist attraction, and he even published an autobiography, ‘Nagurareya’, which sold 10,000 copies. Unfortunately, this didn’t raise enough money to clear his debts (which had inexplicably risen), and even caused problems at home. Hareruya had somehow managed to conceal his side-job from his family until they saw a feature about him on TV. This caused some surprise and distress, understandably.
- Week in the life: Hi, I’m Akira and I’ll be your human punchbag today (The Independent, 1999)
- Big in Japan: Nagurareya (Metropolis)
- Tokyo Talk: Knock out (Metropolis)