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 the day. 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.
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. 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.