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Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012

Cooking becomes popular among male retirees

Kitchen no longer the domain of women as guys start to slice, dice


Men from the generation that worked hard to turn Japan into an economic powerhouse are increasingly turning to cooking classes as a retirement activity, even though housework was considered strictly women's work back in their day.

News photo
Attitude shift: Men take part in a cooking class run by the Better Home Association in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, on Jan. 16. KYODO

Some male retirees sign up for cooking classes to maintain social contact, while others simply want to prepare meals for their families — something they lacked the time to do during their workaholic lives.

At a cooking class held for men only in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, one recent weekday morning, most of the 23 participants were retirees.

"Since I retired, I decided to sign up for this class as I wanted to do something for my family by learning to cook," Hitoshi Tanazawa, 64, said.

"I also found it was great fun to spend time and chat with other participants."

The day's recipes were mackerel cooked with miso and boiled spinach, as well as mushroom soup.

The monthly cooking class is part of a six-month beginner's course that the Better Home Association is providing for ¥21,900.

Compared with classes for women, the association said that men-only classes provide more detailed explanations of each cooking process, such as why it is best not to touch spinach while it is boiling — so that the flavor is not dissipated in the process of stirring.

"Men who are often logical thinkers tend to throw so many questions at a teacher — why they need to do this and that," said Chie Muto, an official at the association's planning and public relations division.

But Muto explained that once they understand the reasoning behind each process, male students tend to learn quickly.

Teachers also try not to provide any more assistance than the students ask for, since many retirees tend to be proud of how they helped rebuild Japan from the devastation of the war and prefer to do everything on their own, according to Muto.

The association launched a male-only cooking class in 1991, around the time Japan's aging society and declining birthrate started to become a major issue.

The number of male participants in the association's 18 cooking schools nationwide currently totals 6,500, a 20-fold surge from the number in 1991, the association said.

Also, the number of men who applied for its six-month beginner's course that started last autumn saw a 46 percent jump from a year before, and more than 80 percent of those who take the class have moved on to the next, more advanced, course, the association said.

Tokyo Gas Co. also organizes cooking classes for men at about 20 locations in its supply area. Men in their 60s also constitute the largest group of students on its three-month course, which costs ¥7,500.

A public relations official for Tokyo Gas said the company tries to choose popular items, such as beef croquettes, so that students can cook and serve at home the dishes they learn in class.

The company also offers classes for men to make dishes that go well with alcohol and allows them to enjoy drinks when they taste what they have cooked.

Cooking has meanwhile also become popular among younger men.

In a program that ABC Cooking Studio Co. runs for both men and women, an increasing number of men in their 20s or 30s are participating.

The studio had anticipated that women would drag their husbands or boyfriends along to the classes, but the program has attracted many single men, one of its officials said.

The lessons started in 2007 and are currently available at six of the studio's schools across the country, the official said.

Twenty years ago, men started learning to cook out of necessity. But men today are instead choosing to cook for fun or as a hobby, the schools said.

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