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Workers Make the Most of Their Free Time (March 29, 2004)

These men practice with their band. (Jiji/S.Kosugi)
Realizing that there is more to life than work, an increasing number of adults are looking for something meaningful to occupy their time and are enjoying their "after five" lives to the maximum. By releasing their stress and making new friends through their hobbies, they are able to go back to work the next day feeling refreshed and revitalized.

Personal Time
Ms. S is a 33-year-old editor who works at a publishing company. On weekdays she goes between her home and the office and is quite busy at work. Come Sunday evenings, though, she spends an hour and a half learning jazz dance, the one time of the week she can truly relax. She takes lessons at a studio 30 minutes from her home, and the cost is only ¥10,000 ($90.91 at ¥110 to the dollar) a month, so the burden is not too much in terms of either time or money. One reason Ms. S enjoys the class, which she has taken for more than two years now, is that it gives her opportunities to meet and dance with other students, who are mainly women in their twenties and thirties.

Asked why she took up dance, Ms. S gives a simple answer: "I wanted to learn something in which I would use my body." She says the dance lessons have been beneficial for a number of reasons, stating, "When I'm dancing, I can completely forget about work. I can get rid of my stress and get some good exercise at the same time." She has no intention, however, of quitting her job to pursue a career in dance. For her, it is nothing more than an enjoyable hobby, one that she wants to continue with for a long time. Within her dance class, though, one 25-year-old female office worker decided to leave her company and follow her dream of dancing for a living. She decided that if she was ever going to try to make a career out of it, she had to do it then, and she is currently working as a dancer at an amusement park.

Ms. K is a 27-year-old office worker who took up tennis three months ago for much the same reason and attends a tennis school located on the roof of a high-rise building near her office once a week after work. While enjoying the beautiful view and the pleasant evening breeze, Ms. K can forget about work as she practices tennis. She explains her reasons for taking up the sport, saying, "Some friends of mine play tennis, so I thought it might be interesting. Plus it's a good way to get some exercise." She also admits that she is hoping "to possibly meet some attractive men." Since beginning tennis, Ms. K feels that she has been able to get into a better groove as far as work is concerned. Playing tennis allows her to forget about any mistakes she made at work or any worries she may have, leaving her feeling refreshed.

Ms. T is a 28-year-old clerical worker who loves learning. Once a month on the way home from work, she attends a "one-day seminar" in which the 20-or-so students learn about a different subject during the two-hour class. The subjects cover a variety of topics ranging from wine to the proper way to drink Chinese tea. She explains the appeal, saying, "I go when it's a subject I'm interested in, and I can learn from an expert. It's quite reasonable, as it only costs ¥6,000 [$54.55] per session."

Middle-Aged Men Also Pursuing Hobbies
This trend is not limited to women; middle-aged businessmen are also making the most of their time outside the office. In particular, many members of this generation are rekindling musical dreams. Mr. I, a 42-year-old employee of an electronics manufacturer, was a member of a band with some of his friends when he was a university student. When the members graduated and found work, however, the band broke up, they settled into their jobs, and many years went by. Recently, however, these forty-somethings decided to re-form their band and now get together once or twice a month to practice. Afterwards, they go out for a few drinks with their old friends who have come to watch; recently the social aspects of the get-togethers are becoming the main focus.

Mr. I is satisfied with his current job, so he has no intention of quitting to pursue music full-time, and he is also keenly aware that the band members are not good enough to do so. He says, however, that his time after work slakes his spiritual needs and that he can enjoy having a bit of time spent only for himself, expanding his circle of acquaintances outside of business relationships.
While there are people who have left a career to pursue a dream full-time, most people are pursuing music, dance, or other interests strictly as a hobby and a way of improving themselves, adding a bit of spice to life, and keeping fit. Many have found that having hobbies outside of work has enriched their lives.

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Copyright (c) 2004 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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