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Part-time salesman/cleaner Seiji Date

by Judit Kawaguchi

Seiji Date, 60, is a part-time clothing salesman and a part-time cleaner. He has 38 years of experience in the fashion business, but six months ago, the economic slump forced his employer to retire him at the company’s mandatory retirement age of 60. Having spent 27 years with the same retailer, where he had slowly worked his way up to the number three position of director, he suddenly found himself unemployed this March. Unable to receive a full pension before the age of 65, Date became a regular at job-placement agencies. And in the last few months, besides being a cleaner and salesman, he has also been a driver’s assistant, a flyer deliveryman and a rental-car washer. Shy and calm in nature, Date blows off steam by fighting fires as a volunteer fireman.

Luckily, positive forces are stronger than the negative. Marriage is so important! Our lives change when we have partners. I was selfish and didn’t care about anyone before I met my wife, but she’s such a nice person that she slowly turned me into a better man.

Silence is a sign of appreciation. Japanese husbands never say, “I love you.” Instead we ask our wives to go for a health check. That’s a sign of our love. Or we bring home some dessert. That’s why one of the most surprising things for Japanese people to witness was North Korean abductee Hitomi Soga and her American husband, Charles Jenkins, hugging and kissing each other at Jakarta airport when they were reunited in 2004. Wow, I thought, couples do that? Even at their age? She was 45 and he was 64, and they still kissed and hugged in front of the whole world!

Job security is more important than more money. I’ve seen young people quit good jobs because they were offered more money elsewhere and then a few years later find themselves out of work, without much hope of finding a position that paid the same. If you have a job ? any job ? cherish it. In today’s economic slump, it’s a treasure.

Japanese women’s fashion is all about looking younger than one’s age. And thinner. Regardless of their age, Japanese women mostly socialize with other women, not with their husbands or boyfriends. Girlfriends go to the theater and they do lunches and dinners, so their outfits are put together with their girlfriends’ sense of style in mind. They want to look great for their friends. Most of my customers are in their 60s and they dress up to the nines seven days a week. They all color their hair black, buy hair extensions and wear full makeup.

Most Japanese men over 60 live in the past. Maybe their past was fun and their present is not. They just do old people’s stuff like sit around worrying about their health. I get up and snowboard.

It’s not the lack of money that drives people to suicide. I often go to the Philippines to study English at a language school. Many people are poor there, yet the Philippines has a low suicide rate while Japan has one of the highest in the world. The Japanese worry and get depressed easily.

Men love messing around, but no man loves a mess. Married men have extramarital affairs, but they almost never divorce in order to be with their lover. The reason is that such men think that they will do the exact same thing again. They think that if they divorce and marry their lover, they will find a new lover and be forced to divorce again, and so on. So why do it? I’ve seen this attitude in a lot of my friends. All are still happily married to their wives.

Wives should not worry about their husbands’ love affairs. He will dump her for sure! It’s just a matter of time, so don’t worry.

I always wonder if other men are in the same position as I am. My wife says no. She says all men are rich and that all her friends keep traveling around the world on their husbands’ money. Japanese women prefer to go abroad with their girlfriends and leave the husbands at home. My wife does it, too, but not as often as her friends. I’m sorry she can’t enjoy her life more.

If you’re always upbeat, nothing can get you down. That’s me. At least that’s the person I strive to be.

When I go to Hello Work, I’m ready for Good-Bye Hope. Hello Work is the Employment Security Bureau run by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. It’s a funny name as going there is not so good for your health because it’s most likely you won’t find a suitable job. If that’s welfare, Japan needs to do better. Sure, the Hello Workers are nice and they try their best, but there isn’t much they can do. The only people with employment security there are the ones telling us that there are no jobs for us.

Ageism is one type of discrimination everyone will eventually face. For a man over 60, the only jobs available are cleaning, security guard work, and being a manager of a condominium building. Wages are \900 an hour. In the apparel industry, pretty much everything is produced in China, so jobs are disappearing in Japan.

It’s OK to pay for kindness. I love visiting hostesses. They are so nice. I know it’s not real friendship, but that’s fine. It’s a service and a good one: They make us customers feel better about themselves.

Everyone is down in the dumps except me. My jobs are so much fun. I visit shops and talk to women of different ages. Cleaning office buildings is a good workout. If only I could work out my whole life too!

After 60, any experience could be the last. I enjoy every moment of living a lot more than I did before. I still feel young, and I go horseback riding and sailing, but now I appreciate the experiences much more. Who knows if there will be another time.

Judit Kawaguchi loves to listen. She is a volunteer counselor and a TV reporter on NHK’s “journeys in japan” Learn more at : http://morinoske.com/ Twitter: judittokyo