OSAKA — Kiyoshi Kato, a 24-year-old worker in the music business, was one of four men wearing shorts and ballet shoes toe-dancing along with female participants in a lesson last month at a dance studio in the Akihabara district of Tokyo.
Their foreheads beaded with sweat and faces looking serious, the four were exercising on tiptoe at the Ballesonance Tokyo Ballet Studio to the voice of a female instructor ordering them to straighten their backs and legs.
Men rarely take private ballet lessons for amateurs. But like Kato, an increasing number are studying ballet and other disciplines typically geared toward women, apparently for self-realization and just to try something new.
Kato said his interest in ballet sprang from his hobby of watching figure skating. “My job has to do with computers and hardly gives me a chance to express myself,” he said. “When I’m ballet dancing, it’s fun to find myself different from what I usually am.”
Meanwhile, in the city of Osaka the sweet scent of vanilla issued from the Tomato Cooking Club as Wataru Kagenishi, 31, put the final touches on his cake. “I’ve done it!” he exclaimed, drawing smiles from his mainly female fellow participants.
An office worker, Kagenishi said he has been fond of cooking for a long time.
While taking after-work lessons is not so uncommon for men, many had been focused on learning English, bookkeeping or other subjects with practical values related to their jobs.
“Since late last year, an increasing number of men are beginning to take part” in lessons previously dominated by women, said Nahoko Negishi, editor in chief of the periodical Keiko to Manabu, which covers various lessons offered by private and other institutions.
Negishi said one factor behind this trend may be men’s “desire to strike a mental balance by improving their skills in a world apart from their work, when it’s difficult for them to further their professional careers in the economic downturn.”
Osaka university senior Katsuki Kurita, 24, studies flower arrangement at Aoki Hokyu Ohararyu Ikebana Kyoshitsu.
“I like looking at paintings and flowers,” said Kurita, who with his dyed hair and trendy appearance doesn’t look like the typical ikebana enthusiast.
Tatsuo Inamasu, a social psychology professor at Hosei University in Tokyo, said of these men, “Their sense of values has diversified and the conventional image of manliness is beginning to crumble.”
Inamasu, who studies consumer psychology, also said men are beginning to “accept tastes and merchandise for women more flexibly and enjoy them. Perhaps options for men are expanding.”
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