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Rise and study: Nagoya school helps workers to help locales

Chunichi Shimbun

A new type of school for office workers, Nagoya Morning University, was established in mid-April in the city’s business district.

The first course on offer is geared toward town revitalization, and all 35 places were quickly filled by employees looking for opportunities to further their abilities and knowledge outside of the workplace.

The classes, held from 7:30 a.m., give ambitious workers the chance to hone their skills by putting their precious morning hours to beneficial use. The university also has benefited from the increasing number of people seeking to give something back to the society following the Great East Japan Earthquake catastrophe, according to the organizer.

At 7.30 a.m., the students, who range in age from their 20s to 40s, gather in a meeting room of a high-rise building is still almost deserted at that time. They come from all walks of industry, including the automobile, food and railway sectors.

Hima Furuta, an expert in rejuvenating rural areas, is teaching the course. At a recent class, the students, coffee in hand to ward off drowsiness, diligently took notes during a lecture.

The university was founded by the Chubu Marketing Association and is located near Nagoya Station.

For ¥29,400, students can attend five one-hour classes, which end in June, and will also get to visit Komonocho, Mie Prefecture, to address real-life issues the mountain town is struggling with.

One of the those who enrolled, 31-year-old Norihide Imanaga from Anjo, Aichi Prefecture, works at a real estate firm in Nagoya, a roughly 50-minute commute. He was previously employed at a financial institution in Tokyo, but moved back to his hometown after the March 11, 2011, disasters struck.

“I’ve since realized that it’s not only work that’s important, and I want to contribute in any way I can to my hometown,” Imanaga explained. “I hope to build connections at this school, where there are many forward-thinking people, and to seize new opportunities.”

Yoko Arai, 29, another of the students, works as an accountant for a food manufacturing company. She studied agriculture during her university stint.

“My dream is to revitalize the region with the help of farmers. I decided to attend the course to see if I can find a way to connect the two,” said Arai. “I’m busy at night with work and other engagements, but I can make time to attend classes if they’re in the morning.

“I want to interact with people from other industries and hopefully that will spark some new ideas,” she said.

Daisaku Hayashi, 43, a member of the organizing committee behind the school’s creation, said: “The university is a place for those who are highly motivated to learn. I want to change Nagoya through these morning classes.”

The school plans to extend the variety of programs on offer, covering topics including the environment, farming and food.

Furuta, the lecturer, was involved in the 2009 launch of Marunouchi Morning University in central Tokyo. That school originally started out with the goal of easing the city’s morning rush hour and making more effective use of office space, but it has also helped to meet the demands of workers aspiring to build up their skills.

Furuta has also helped to create programs that train people in the reconstruction of towns and cities in Tohoku that were crippled by the March 2011 disasters.

“There has been a great increase in not only the number of people who want to help rebuild (the Tohoku) region but also those who desire to do something for communities outside of the workplace,” Furuta said.

For further information (in Japanese), contact the Chubu Marketing Association at (052) 221-1261.

This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published May 2.