More and more senior citizens in Japan are starting new businesses to have more fulfilling lives post-retirement. They are utilizing their wealth of experience and knowledge as well as loan support programs provided by the central and local governments.
A cafe run by Yoshiaki Sato, 65, in a housing complex in Wakaba area in Tachikawa, a city on the outskirts of Tokyo, is busy servicing local seniors and young people. The restaurant, called Tekutaku, opened seven years ago.
"After retirement, I was more excited to do this than sitting around being bored," Sato said in a recent interview.
Sato worked as a chef at Ueno Seiyoken, a well-established restaurant in Tokyo's Koto Ward, for 12 years and then started an aquafarming business in an unsuccessful attempt to get rich quick.
After taking some other jobs, such as manager of a family restaurant, he began a monthly meal service for senior residents in the complex, serving "one-coin" dishes for 500 yen each. It was a hit, as many residents gathered to enjoy his cooking.
Sato started Tekutaku at the age of 57 to provide meals to residents every day. Attracted by his friendly nature and family-style cooking, both old and young started coming to the restaurant.
To start the business, Sato turned to a loan program set up by the municipal government of Tachikawa for citizens aged 55 and older. With the city office paying more than half of the interest on loans under the program, Sato said, "I didn't have enough money on hand and couldn't have started the restaurant without the system."
Sato offers a variety of meals using the popular Koshihikari brand of rice from Uonuma, Niigata Prefecture, where he was born, and vegetables harvested in Tachikawa.
"I want to continue the business until I'm 70," he said.
In Chigasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo, Masaru Yasuda, 64, started a business at age 61 to assist dog lovers. He utilized the Small and Medium Enterprise Agency's subsidiary program to support the launch of new businesses which, in principle, requires no repayment of funding.
Yasuda used a notary public license he obtained as a company employee to begin the service, which involves concluding trust contracts with clients. He is entrusted by dog owners with the money needed to ensure the animal's care and upkeep, once they become too old to do so themselves.
"I always thought of working after retirement." But the first year and a half was a "long tunnel," Yasuda said, recalling various efforts he made to secure customers, such as boosting his name recognition on a website and conducting seminars on trust services at a dog cafe.
As a company employee, Yasuda was involved in sales advertisements and arranging exhibitions for model houses. "My experience became my biggest asset."
According to the Research Institute of Japan Finance Corp., wholly owned by the government, the average age of people who started new businesses in 2018 was 43.3, up for the sixth consecutive year and the highest since the survey began in 1991, while the figure for those older than 50 rose to 26.3 percent.
The research also showed that 68.4 percent of those starting businesses were able to do so with less than 10 million yen ($93,000).
"We see more startups that involve life fulfillment goals of people who want to make use of their interests or skills. A lot don't require large equipment costs. Because of the internet and the growing popularity of shared office space, fewer things are needed to start new businesses," said an official of the research institute.