KANSAI Close-up

[Columns]Many senior men often become oversized trash at home in their retirement but they should become resources contributing to society

Baby boomers shadow senior men's club
I met my old friend, a retired businessman in his 60s, for the first time in a long while. He acted strangely fidgety and said, 'I am going to a cooking classroom.'
Surprised to hear him say he was taking a cooking lesson, I asked him for details. In addition to cooking, he is also taking on English at a citizens' activity organization for men in the town where he lives. Its name is 'Men's Whereabouts.'
I visited the cooking classroom later one day as his remark tempted me very much to see it. More than a dozen senior men were in a room in the town's community center, working hard cutting ingredients into small pieces or stewing them together. Yet, they were in happy harmony and exchanged jokes. Of course, there was a time later for them to taste the food they cooked.

Club launched in 2001
Men's Whereabouts originally got off the ground in 2001 after a nonprofit organization supporting citizens' activities in Nagaokakyo city in Kyoto Prefecture called for its establishment. It became an independent voluntary friendship club within the NPO in 2004. Officially, it holds up a little grandiose goal of 'promoting senior men's participation in society' but its concrete slogans are rather amusing as they say, 'Don't lose to vigorous women!''You can stand on your own away from your wife!'and 'Don't let yourself become oversized (useless) trash but become resources contributing to society.'
A total of 30 men ranging in age from the 60s to 80s are currently members of the club and pay 1,000 yen each in monthly dues. Their backgrounds are varied with some working in the past as businessmen, public service employees and self-employed. Harunori Tsuzaki, 64, is good at photography, and Yasuhiro Kawasaki, 62, is ambitious about establishing licensing examinations for knowledge on local tourism and culture.
Additionally, there are other members who are active in making good use of their talent in English conversation, woodblock prints and hiking. The club organizes more than 10 events a month on top of regular weekly meetings, including cooking, drinking liquors for pleasure, bird watching, woodcut printing, hiking and a sports day meeting. These events take place with participating members paying actual expenses.

Number of groups rising
Speaking on the objective of the club's activities, Hiroji Kishimoto, 68-year-old president of Men's Whereabouts, said: 'Many senior men often become oversized trash at home in their retirement having no contacts with other people or hobbies. We established the club thinking that such a way of life is not good for them and society.' He said the group hopes to expand the sphere of its activities in the future to include promotion of international exchanges, response to information-oriented society and commitment to volunteer activities.
Many similar clubs are said to have come into being in the Kansai region as well as other areas as expectations for circles like Men's Whereabouts are growing across the country. However, Kishimoto and others in the club are surprisingly worried about those who were born during the increased birth rate beginning in 1947 and who are scheduled to face retirement one after another beginning in 2007.
'For the present,'Kishimoto said, 'anyone regardless of where they live can join (our group). However, I think it would be better for the club not to have too many members in order to operate functionally. I wonder what we should do if the number of applications for admission goes up suddenly...'
It seems that Kishimoto and others are likely to be pressed to make a serious decision henceforth on whether to review the way the club should operate or put a cap on the membership. (K)