There’s been a lot of hand-wringing about Japan’s aging population—and rightly so. According to the internal affairs ministry, 23% of Japanese citizens are aged 65 or above, the highest rate in the world. And keep in mind that the life expectancy here is also a world-leading 82-plus. That’s a lot of retirement.
For many older Tokyoites, the prospect of two decades of idleness isn’t particularly appealing. So rather than installing themselves at the local seniors’ center or wandering in the park, they’re picking up a new set of employable skills at the Tokyo Metropolitan Vocational Skills Development Center (TMVSDC)—and heading back into the workforce.
With its main branch in Iidabashi, the school focuses on developing practical skills in fields that are more congenial to older workers, such as hotel and restaurant management. Students not only take courses but participate in on-the-job training via school events and work-study programs. And the classes are no place for slackers—the curriculum covers in six months what others cover in one to two years, with a total of 176 lecture hours and 634 hours of training.
Kimiyo Kajiyama, the student representative for the hotel and restaurant course, came into contact with TMVSDC when a friend invited her to a school-sponsored event. “The students were very energetic and their attitudes were positive,” says the 50-something Kumamoto native, who, before her retirement, worked in a corporate environment, including a stint with a multinational education company that sent her to Houston and LA.
Kajiyama was so impressed that she soon decided to get involved in the program, studying from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. five days a week. Her classes have ranged from hospitality theory to food safety and the finer points of sake, and she and her fellow students enjoy in-class visits by experts in the field, including representatives of high-end hotels like the Hyatt Regency and the Hotel Okura. “The instructors are very diligent and sincere, hardworking people. But they are very funny and glad to share their experience and knowledge with us,” she says.
Although not yet sure what she’ll do after graduation, Kajiyama is certain that she and other graduates have a lot to offer. “My classmates still want to participate in society through working. I think they want to be independent individuals to show the meaning of their existence to society. As the proverb says, ‘It is never too late to study.’”
This story originally appeared in Metropolis magazine (www.metropolis.co.jp).© Japan Today