Mitsuru Kawai drops by a bathhouse for factory workers at Toyota Motor's headquarters in Aichi Prefecture each day before work.

After washing, the 70-year-old executive dons a helmet and heads for its noisy forging plant instead of his corporate office suite. There, he passes on his knowledge of craftsmanship to the younger factory workers, a daily routine that has remained the same since he was promoted to one of the automaker's vice presidents in April 2017, the first graduate of Toyota Motor Corp.'s own vocational school to do so.

For Kawai, sitting in a cushy executive office chair holds no appeal.