Salesman Finds New Niche as a Japanese Teacher

By Teshima, Yuri | The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan), December 22, 2014 | Go to article overview

Salesman Finds New Niche as a Japanese Teacher


Teshima, Yuri, The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)


In a classroom at the ARC Academy Japanese language school near JR Shinjuku Station in Tokyo, Hiroshi Oba held up drawings of a piano and a guitar to a group of about a dozen young people.

"Watashi wa piano ga toku ni suki desu," he used as an example sentence, which means, "I particularly like the piano."

Oba, 58, was teaching the class how to use "toku ni," or "particularly." He has been teaching only for eight months, but appears to have learned a few tricks of the trade.

His students are from all over the world -- China, Thailand, France, Russia, Italy and the United States.

"Thank you, teacher. That was fun." Listening to the students chat with him in halting Japanese after class brought a smile to his face.

Oba originally worked in science-related fields. After graduating from university, he worked at a Tokyo trading company that specialized in electronic devices.

In 1995, he and some partners started a company that dealt in products such as televisions for hotel rooms. As one of the firm's directors, Oba traveled frequently within Japan and overseas to help open sales routes and develop new products.

Looking for a new field, in 2011 Oba found a job at a food company near his home, where he worked until early last year. During that time, his two eldest daughters left home due to work and marriage. The remaining daughter went to the United States to study in the summer of 2012.

Oba and his wife found themselves in their now-lonely living room, talking about what to do with the rest of their lives, with exchanges such as "Which of us will die last?"

"I didn't want to just die and be known as that old guy who was a good salesman," he said.

Oba remembered his youngest daughter hitting the books constantly to achieve her dream of studying abroad.

"I want to study for some kind of certification," he told his wife. She thought about it and said, "Maybe I'll do something, too."

He looked into what certificates were within reach, and becoming a Japanese teacher caught his eye. He liked talking with young people and thought his experience as a corporate executive could be useful. …

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