[From July Issue 2013]
KidZania is a “city in which the children are the stars” where they can challenge themselves to try any job they fancy. Everything in the building is two-thirds of its normal size in order to suit children’s field of vision and height. Faithful replicas of familiar institutions, including a department store, hospital and police station, line the city streets. Children can try out more than 90 professions and receive services as customers themselves.
There are 13 KidZania located in ten countries around the world. The first facility opened in Mexico. All their facilities incorporate jobs typical of the local culture. For example, Japan had the first “door to door delivery” pavilion. Mexico has “shoe shining” and “archeological dig” pavilions and Indonesia has a “tea factory” pavilion.
“At KidZania Tokyo, some children choose familiar workplaces, such as the bakery or pizza shop, while others go for professions that are easily identifiable by their uniforms, like pilot or fire fighter.” UEDA Hiromi of the PR and Marketing Department says. “Besides occupations such as fashion model or beautician, many girls opt for dynamic jobs at the construction zone or gas station.”
Recently, there’s been a buzz about companies that offer work experience not just to children, but also to adults. Launched in 2011, Shigoto-Ryokousha Co., Ltd, embraces the philosophy of “experiencing a variety of occupations as a traveller.” As part of a day tour, the company offers work experience for a range of some 60 occupations including fisherman, plasterer, waiting staff at an inn and bartender.
The cost is between 8,000 and 20,000 yen and tours run from half a day to two days, depending on the profession. Forty percent of the participants are male and 60% female. The largest age groups are in their late 20s to 30s. All kinds of people take part: casual workers, small business owners and those in full time employment.
The reasons people have for participating varies greatly from simple curiosity, to a desire to find a suitable career for themselves, to those who want to learn more about a certain industry because they are contemplating a change of career.
TANAKA Tsubasa, the company’s representative, says, “These days being a florist, Japanese language teacher or director of traditional crafts is popular. Florist has always been a popular profession with women and many take part in the Japanese language teacher program because they think it’s an easy career switch. As for the director of traditional crafts, some participate because they are interested in crafts, but most have no ambition to become an artisan; they prefer to be involved with traditional crafts for other reasons, one of which is to see which craft is most popular with the majority of people and another is to find out what kind of traditional craft would have suited them as a trade.
For the future, Tanaka is planning to expand into offering work experience in real businesses and into offering work experience packages for groups. Though their numbers are few, there are also foreign participants who enjoy typical Japanese professions, such as being a director of traditional Japanese crafts or being a sushi chef.
Text: TSUCHIYA Emi