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Activities of Technical Intern Trainees, etc.

May 2021

Experiencing Japanese Culture through an Online Traditional Sweets-Making Workshop!

Implementing Organization: Heiwado Co., Ltd.

Our company is a general retailer. It has now been about 18 months since we accepted our first batch of technical intern trainees, 10 Vietnamese trainees in the job category of “prepared-food processing (heating).” The technical intern trainees are currently assigned to five stores in the three prefectures of the Hokuriku region (northwestern Honshu), with two trainees at each store.
Although we originally wanted to take the trainees sightseeing all over Japan after they joined the company and expose them to Japanese culture, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult to go out at all. This gave us the idea of holding an online event to “experience Japanese culture.” Since the trainees’ job category is “prepared-food processing,” we chose an aspect of Japanese culture that is connected to “cuisine” and would allow them to enjoy a feeling of accomplishment by making something with their own hands: traditional Japanese sweets, or wagashi.
In terms of preparations, we started by searching for traditional Japanese confectioners that offer online sweets-making workshops. After viewing various websites, we discovered a traditional confectioner in Kyoto who is actively involved in online courses. The themes of the shop’s sweets-making kits (bean-paste cakes in various shapes, called nerikiri) are “cherry blossoms” and “chrysanthemums.” This was another deciding factor, as we thought it would appeal to the tastes of the all-female trainees. The course fee was reasonable at about 2,000 yen per person and the workshop kits could be stored without refrigeration for up to 14 days if unopened, ideally satisfying the requirements for an online event. We had all the workshop kits delivered to our head office and then dispatched them to each store via in-house mail, where they were handed over to the trainees. We explained to the instructor in advance that the participants would be Vietnamese technical intern trainees, that there would be an interpreter, and that the purpose of the event was to allow them to experience Japanese culture.
In order to hold the event online, we also needed to prepare a web-conferencing service. Although all of the trainee housing has Wi-Fi access, the workshop time was limited to one hour, so we checked the trainees’ internet connections in advance to ensure a smooth progression on the day of the workshop. We also asked the interpreter from the supervising organization to convey to the trainees an explanation of the workshop kits, which items to prepare (scissors, dishes, hand towels, etc.), and important points to remember (how to store the workshop kits, handwashing immediately beforehand, wearing gloves during the workshop, etc.).
On the day of the workshop, the trainees were all smiles as they enjoyed making traditional Japanese sweets while viewing each other’s creations. Although they were initially puzzled by the unfamiliar Japanese sweet bean paste, or anko, they were able to prepare and shape it properly thanks to the instructor’s lecture. Trying traditional Japanese confections for the first time, they apparently found the taste to be very sweet.
After the Japanese sweets-making workshop, an update session was held in which the trainees discussed topics such as what they had learned in their training as well as their dreams for the future. In these times when it is difficult to meet in-person, we believe that sharing their thoughts in this way allowed the trainees to feel “connected.” Despite the approximately two months of preparation required, seeing the happy faces of the trainees gave us the greatest joy as an accepting enterprise. We hope to continue supporting them so that they can gain an understanding of the Japanese language and culture and acquire new skills.

  • At the head office
  • Traditional Japanese sweets-making kits

  • The technical intern trainees sent us some photos of themselves with the sweets they made.

[Comments from the technical intern trainees]
●”It was difficult, but fun.”
●”Thank you for creating this opportunity for us.”
●”I didn’t know that traditional Japanese sweets are made by hand.”