Men-only events helping evacuees open up

MORIOKA, Japan - Male residents at temporary housing facilities for disaster evacuees are holding an increasing number of men-only events to promote interpersonal ties and curb isolation and depression.

While women living at the temporary housing facilities more naturally seek each other's company, men tend to confine themselves to their rooms.

The events, which include cooking seminars, shogi and simply getting together to chat, are aimed at encouraging men to form bonds with each other.

The activities are also expected to prevent unnoticed deaths.

Male residents in the Nodacho No. 2 temporary housing complex in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, where 48 evacuee households live, launched Otoko no Zadankai (men's roundtable meeting) in the complex's conference room in April.

Members gather at 10 a.m. every Monday and talk about the tsunami that followed the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake last year, as well as their families, daily life and other topics.

The group also holds a monthly cooking seminar.

The housing complex began accepting residents in June last year.

Volunteer organisations held such events as tea parties and knitting classes but most of those who attended were women.

Kunio Sasaki, 73, head of the residents' association, said: "Women quickly become acquainted with others, while men tend to stay inside their units. As an opportunity to get together, I came up with the idea of organising gatherings for men only."

In June's cooking seminar, participants learned how to cook Chinese-style cold noodles. Four men attended the session, which was taught by a city government nutritionist.

The men tasted the soup while enjoying casual conversation. "Something is missing," one said. "There's not enough sake."

One of the participants, 80-year-old Kiyoshi Murai, said the gatherings have helped him become acquainted with more people.

"I'm separated from my neighbours and friends [due to the disaster]," he said. "As men tend not to have many hobbies, I'm glad for these kinds of opportunities."

He said he often plays "ground golf"--a variation on the game for elderly people--near the temporary housing complex.

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