Ms. Michiyo Tani (left) and a helper
  • Ms. Michiyo Tani (left) and a helper
  • Care house "One Leaf"
  • Care House "Big Sky"
  •  “We overcame all pains and sorrow, now is our time of life that has just began!”

Growing number of elderlies is a serious problem in Japan. Most elderlies are 65 years or older, retired and unable to take care of themselves, but require daily assistance. On the contrary, child population is decreasing every year because couples today produce less than two children in their life time. By 2012, the number of elderly rose to 25.1% of the total population, which means one elderly in every four persons.

One way to deal with this problem in Japan has been the establishment of elderly care homes. Futaba Corporation is such a home, located in Ichiba-shi, Tokushima-ken, Japan. Its entrance has a colorful sign board painted with joyous faces of male and female elderlies, which reads, “We overcame all pains and sorrow, now is our time of life that has just began!”

Ms. Michiyo Tani manages Futaba Corporation’s care homes in 15 different locations. The service consists of providing board, feeding and toilet assistance, medical and health care for the elderly with the help of 130 employees. Ms. Tani is a short woman with typical Japanese features. Giving her a glance, you might mistake her figure for demureness. But she is a strong, down-to-earth individual who dedicatedly provides care for her clients who are silently awaiting death, but also empowers her staff who are mostly overworked and underpaid by the government.

Employed by the Futaba Corportation for the past 10 years, and she is selected precisely for her managerial skills. Her main duty is to oversee the total management of the home. She is in charge of clients care service and employee management in cooperation with business partners, agencies and people in the local communities, along with the operation of the health care framework of the home. Seemed much to deal with, I asked her what her major problem was. Immediately she answered, “The unmatched needs and wants between the clients and the employees.” I can imagine a chaotic scenario in which, a client may refuse to eat, and another may fall down while others may try to escape when all nurses are busy.

“How do you resolve it?” To my question, she said “I do not resolve it myself, but ask for suggestions from my employees, `This is what the clients want, what can we do?’—Believe me, If I answer the question myself, the employees will not be happy. If they give me suggestions, I will tell them to do it. Because they find the answer themselves, they will get the work done. I am always welcoming to any opinions and ideas.”

Intrigued by her approach to work, I asked her, “In the world, women leaders are underrepresented. Women’s CEOs represent only 5% of men’s CEOs according to S&P 500 statistics. How do you think that you were able to climb up the ladders?” To this, she lists that the important qualities of women in leadership: communication, listening skills and bringing creative ideas. She believes that what made her stand out in her job is her keen sense of learning. She said simply, “I like to observe people.”—“For example, when my superiors are doing some work, I observe. I think through in my mind, what this person wants and needs? I also search for what is not done. When I find some problems, I try to come up with answers or ideas. I am constantly thinking ‘What is the problem that this person is going through?’ and this gave me favor from the management board.”

Because of the overwhelming number of elderlies in society, many young nurses and helpers are frustrated with the situation. Recently, a young helper murdered clients in a care home in Osaka. There have also been reports about the use of physical violence and abusive language against elderlies in many homes. In such a scenario, it is not easy to uphold the humanity as a crucial factor in the world of welfare. So I asked her what effort she made to instill humanitarian values into her employees. She expressed “I am always inquiring with my employees about their work.” She says that humanity—love of people—cannot be delivered from knowledge, skills or even positions. Everything boils down to one’s desire to care for others. She repeats telling them that their actions determine the clinents’ quality of life because they are defenseless. Your warm smile, kind words and actions can only make their clients feel that life is worth living.” In today’s world, where people assume materialistic reward for whatever they contribute to others, she emphasizes that humanity without reward or punishment.

Although welfare workers are encouraged to care for others as their first priority, in reality, short of helping hands, low wages, and high responsibilities make it tough to achieve. In viewing this, I asked her if she has any success in motivating the employees. She replied, “I work with them interpersonally. When the employees are stressed for any reasons, I take them out for lunch. I listen to them and talk things out.” I was touched by her selfless devotion to the work of humanity without any incentive. She feels she has to do it because elderly need her.

I explained to her that this article will be published in World Pulse and people around the world may see it. “Do you think you can use this approach to any other fields of work?” She said modestly that she only worked for medical and care homes, so did not know whether it could be applicable to any other fields. I told her that her approach works for our NGO.

Lastly, within decades, baby boomers will become elderlies. By 2060, almost a half of the populations in Japan will be elderlies. There will be less workers because of less children being born today. Is she thinking about future times? “Do you consider hiring foreigners?” Her reply was that, “Yes, as a matter of fact, I teach nursing for elderly in schools to women from around the world.—We already have women from Indonesia and China.” I showed her the newsletters from our NGO, Support Women and Children in Nigeria. I asked her whether she considers employing women from Nigeria. She said ‘Yes.’ Clearly, she has similar vision with our NGO searching toward a more humane society; It was an interview that I felt she has become much closer.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous digital media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

Topic Leadership

Take action! This post was submitted in response to Voices of Our Future 2013 Assignments: Profiles.

Comment on this Post


Not only Michiyo is strong but also understanding. She is like a gold mine to me. Such gold can be discovered where I thought it won't be possible becaues the place I live is rural. Tokushima is far south side of Tokyo. Hideko N.

Hmmm, Tani said she would like to employ Nigerians to her social work. Good to hear.

Good work Hideko. Well done dear sister!


Hideko, I am happy that you are getting on very well. Yes, WP provides a lot of life improving opportunities. You will never regret joining. Yes, I saw the comment on me in the blog and thought it was one of your fans. I even shared it on the page of Divine Foundation. Little did I suspect that to be your mom. I am laughing.

Will be available on 20th for the conference. Take care and best in all the assignments. I will be following.


i like this story, it is very humane. on a personal note, i think women are way more successful than men in manegerial tasks especially those relating to vulnerable groups (elderly, orphans, etc.). We spread love and care, don't we? :)

Keep it up (Y)

"Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else." —Judy Garland

Perhaps anyone who focus on ranks, positions, hierarchy of people, cannot do the best job in the work of humanity. Because they are already missing the point. Those who can spread love and care can survive at last. Survival of love, not survival of fittest. Hideko N.

thank you for this profile. the elderly really need our help. what i like is the orientation of the article towards linking her work with your work and also finding opportunities for the women you work with. its really interesting. hopefully the government can review social worker's salaries to match the big jobs that they do.

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest. regards pela

It was really blessing for me to get to know her. I did not know too many people since I was absent from Japan for years. I have no doubt that this was the help of God. Hideko N.

I enjoyed reading your article. I particularly liked how you weaved in statistics surrounding the issue throughout your article. It gave context to better understand how important the task is that Michiyo is doing.


Thank you Nechesa, I appreciate your pointing out about the context. The context gives us idea that we are no isolated islands but inter-related if we can work things through. Especially in today's world the need is greater for awareness. Hideko N.

Dear Hideko

In every one of our interviews I can feel our deepest concerns. In the case of Japan, I was certainly wondering whether you would bring or not the issue. I´m glad you did. I think this is a great article praising a very difficult endeavor in your country. Thanks life for people like Michiyo, klaudia

Klaudia González

I was certainly intregued by her words myself. Difficult proglem, sure, but I see it can be blessing as well since Japan had strong tendancy to be scientific, materialistic, technologicalized, robotic in a way. Too many elderly will help us open our eyes to humanity. Hideko N.

On a personal note, I want t say I like Michiyo Tani. Your writing revealed a lot about her humaneness and commitment to her work which I see more like a calling.

I also like that part of her that is so ready to transfer her skills and impart selfless into those she works with. Nice to know too that she is willing to also employ Nigerians.

Thank you for sharing Michiyo's story in such a passionate manner. You deserve a big warm hug.


It's my pleasure, Greengirl. After all, the world is interconnected. I know very well Nigerians will fit in the picture well. Big Nigerian women can carry elderly easier than small Japanese people (ha ha ha...) Of course, not all Nigerian women are big and not all Japanese are small. Hideko

Touching ! I loved how you ended your article, on a positive note - I get the same warmth and love after reading your piece.

Well done dear !


Mukut Ray

You captured Tani-san's humanity, humility and compassion well. I feel as if I know her personally. You also provided some great information that I feel can be used in any company whether an NGO or corporation. The art of listening to your employees and clients is severely lacking in many companies and it is only through listening that you truly understand their needs. They also know best what the solutions are as they usually create work-arounds when the current situation is not functioning as it should.

Well done. Janice

Imagine how much she has to carry when she operates care homes of 15 different locations. Then she has courage to say that listening to their needs is amazing to me. It will be interesting to find out how she deals with oppositions. Hideko N.

The down side of family planning is pretty evident from these statistics. It's a sad situation when the elderly is not cared for - and often times the children are not that willing or not inclided to sacrifice their lives to care for their parents - they way parents sacrifice for the children. So yes, elderly care facilities are essential and I can only imagine how tough a job it would be to keep the caregivers motivated enough to deal with the work they have to do on a daily basis.

Hats off to Michiyo Tani. Thank you Hideko, for bringing her to us.

Salaam Aminah

Wonderfully loving woman, Michiyo. She is offering help to the people who need it the most. I pray for Michiyo to live to see her old age, and my God will give her loving persons to take care of her. She deserves nothing but the best of what life could offer. Long live old people Long live Michiyo Long live Japan Nice work Hideko darling. Sending you love from Japan

Nakinti B. Nofuru 2013 VOF Correspondent Reporter for Global Press Institute Bamenda - Cameroon Email:

Hi, Hideko, Your story of Michiyo shows us the power and wisdom of women as the world's caregivers; and as compassionate managers at the helm of organizations providing health services for the elderly. May positive and mutually-engaging cultural exchange blossom from the connections between Nigeria and Japan in this specific field of care-giving!

Blessings, libudsuroy

''Every Day is a Journey and the Journey itself is Home.'' (Matsuo Basho)

Hello Libudsuroy, I am honored to receive such comment, that you are inspired by the connection between Nigeria and Japan. Yes, we can be a bit creative, can't we? It does not have to be always the persons from the same country to take care of the problems of the country. Today's globalization and Web 2.0 allows us to extend our vision outside our own territories which will narrows our gaps.

Warmly, Hideko N.

Ms. Michiyo Tani is a beautiful example of how many benefits can bring a woman when she takes an administrative position in the company. I liked so much that you, Hideko, underlined these qualities usung Michiyo's quote: communication, listening skills and bringing creative ideas.

In Ukraine we also have a very high percentage of eldery people. Prognosis say that in the nearest future typical Ukrainian face will change significantly. And this face will be female and elder. It's a little bit sad situation, but I believe if we already understand the problem we can change it. And the main role will be to women again.

Warmest greetings from Ukraine, Iryna

Thank you Iryna for your greeting and comment, I am aware of that many European countries also face the same thing. Japan had plan to deal with it back in 2000. Still we struggle because many people today live not in extended family but single family. All in all, we come to understand that caring approach is the most important in today's world, or we cannot solve the problem--it is not science or technology. Join me at

Love your comment!

Hideko N.

Hideko, I love how you highlighted Ms. Tani's personal ideas and actions in management, problem-solving, being a woman in the workplace, and social work/elder care. It is a philosophy that can be applied to many spheres of work and personal life -- as you noted -- and it made me re-consider my own approach to working in personnel management at an NGO. NGOs certainly deal with being understaffed, underpaid, and overworked, as Ms. Tani describes.

I also got an inspiring sense of how humble, hardworking, caring, and emotionally intelligent Ms. Tani is both personally and professionally.

Thank you for writing about such an interesting topic with a satisfying mix of philosophy, concrete descriptions, and statistics to provide context!

I do too. Before the interview, my mind was filled with questions but her answers really settled me down. Even though workers are paid low wages still they live far better than those riches in under-developing countries. You will see many cheap goods all over Japan. We are in the era that advanced nations have to arrange for the balance instead of seeking only our benefit. Love, Hideko

Great job on your first assignment! Nice use of statistics and describing them in a way readers will understand.

Next time, try to focus on the organization of your story. Try putting all of the most important information at the beginning and leave extra details for the end.

Great work!

Best, Maura

You write: “How do you resolve it?” To my question, she said “I do not resolve it myself, but ask for suggestions from my employees, `This is what the clients want, what can we do?’—Believe me, If I answer the question myself, the employees will not be happy. If they give me suggestions, I will tell them to do it. Because they find the answer themselves, they will get the work done. I am always welcoming to any opinions and ideas.”

I love that this is taking on the grassroot perspective in providing care by making sure that the community that is being served are involved in the process of finding the solution. I think that the American health care system could learn a lot from this approach.

Your writing is focused and truly steps back to bring in that global perspective! Great thinking and analyzing!

Keep up the good work!

Zoe Piliafas

Voices of Our Future Community Manager World Pulse

I learned a lot from her too. She is such an inspiration, but I did not know nor expected because she is very humble person. I deeply appreciate your compliment and I will let her know that she is inspiring to many in international stage. Unfortunately many Japanese are unable to speak English but at the grassroot level we find leaders who are down-to-earth being connected to the real people, not isolated.

Hideko N.

Hi Hideko --

I know this comment may be a little late, but I wanted to leave a very positive comment congratulating you on your Module 1 assignment. You provide an excellent window into the challenges facing Japan due to demographic shifts. Your interview with Michiyo Tani provides a perfect lens to view these issues, and a relatable story, allowing readers to forge a very personal bond with the woman and the problems she confronts every day.

I know it was difficult to take on an assignment where no easy solution could be explained or even suggested. The growth of the elderly population in Japan poses incredibly complex problems that have no easy answers. I think it's just fine that you left it open ended, and that your interview with Michiyo Tani made it clear exactly how difficult all of these questions you raise are to address.

Wonderful job. I really look forward to working with you more to explore other issues that are important to you.

Warm wishes, Camille

Camille Ricketts

Camille, honor is mine, how lifted up I am to work with you! You have all the tech and knowledge that cast light on the darkness on my path. Imagine yourself carrying a torch light while I am carrying a bag of write-ups to post—while Dikshya is checking if it is written correctly. Now you see, no one should be missing! Love, Hideko

Thank you! Thank you! for so eloquently wording the problems that are plaguing, not only Japan's elderly, but the vulnerable all over the world. In societies that consistently undervalue nurturing, listening and teaching, the values and services that have been provided by mothers, teachers, child and healthcare workers are reflected in their poor pay and lack of respect for their efforts. The quote from Ms. Michiyo Tani, “I am always inquiring with my employees about their work.” She says that humanity—love of people—cannot be delivered from knowledge, skills or even positions. Everything boils down to one’s desire to care for others. She repeats telling them that their actions determine the clients’ quality of life because they are defenseless. Your warm smile, kind words and actions can only make their clients feel that life is worth living,” says so much about the vocation of nurture. When we begin paying an honest wage for these angelic efforts, we will be able to sustain those called to do this work. Even the angels on earth have to eat. I am very impressed by your writing, Hideko. Blessings to you. Yvette


I am in a position to think of what alternatives are there when I become so called elderly. We should give the elderly the best portions of life but in reality many in today’s generation undervalue the care for elderly. But thanks to the technology of today’s world, web2.0, globalization made possible for us to take positive outlook of the future. My portion is to solicit foreigners who are downtrodden in their homeland, particularly, Nigerians who suffer from poverty and unemployment because of corruption.

You are welcome to join us if you’d like to be part of the team. We will network elderly care homes in the U.S. within a matter of time. A few days ago, I just had discussion with an American board of director in order to relocate our NGO in California, U.S. The web site and contact is below.

SWACIN Support Women & Children in Nigeria tel: +81 88-696-5417 / 090-1173-9378 fax:+81 88-696-5418 email: Web site: Facebook:

Dear Hideko, I am essentially already elderly in the U.S. I am a grandmother, age 62. I have been officially out of the workforce for many years in order to be more available to my grown children as the brought up their families and to the communities in which I live. My mission now is assisting elderly members of my communities whose children are too involved with their own work and families to have the time that it takes to minister to the elderly in our society. The rate of pay for teachers, and child and senior caregivers is a true measure of how little we value our vulnerable populations; otherwise, we'd be pledging much of what we earn to care for the people who care for those we say we cherish.

There are many efforts in the U.S. to keep seniors in their own homes. Most of the still vibrant seniors with whom I interact in my mission today are not willing to give up their independence by entering senior care facilities, but the expenses of running one's own home are exorbitant and many seniors are preyed upon by unscrupulous handymen and other workers. These seniors who have worked hard all their lives to earn their independence and dignity could certainly use advocates in taking care of themselves and their properties. I would like a way to enable those who own their own homes to do home sharing that would include caretakers for their everyday needs, such as transportation.

I do not support my country's trend toward importing underpaid workers whose children are then frustrated by the injustices they face. I am for empowering those who take care of the powerless. This power we transfer with the transfer of training and funds to them.

I envision a society where we teach our children to honor knowledge and the accompanying experience enough to want to work for free or a small apprenticeship stipend (that would perhaps include room and board) in order to be taught what the elderly know. Unfortunately, even my own grandchildren think they can learn everything they need to know from the internet.

I thank you for your invitation to be member of your team. I will look at the website to see where my passions and talents may fit into your efforts. Blessings to you. Yvette


Thank you for the well thought-out and caring comment. I am also grateful to your appreciation for the value raised in this piece. Although the idea comes from, not me, but Michiyo Tani, if we stop seeking only materialistic reward, but searching for humane society, how would that be wonderful? In fact, now I work for the care home part-time. I love the work because of the love shown by the elderly people there. When I miss a day or two, they tell me how they miss me. There is no comparison to the time when I was an owner of a hospital in the past. My heart was filled with anger and stress. There was delusion that I thought I was happy since others would bow down to me. Apart from the position, no doubt we need money, but if we focus money as the goal, we seem to be making the fundamental mistakes. Such attitude is manifested in capitalism; but the result is wide-spread marginalization, discriminations, oppressions, and corruptions.

Increasing elderly population may help us change our attitude toward a bit kinder than materialistic. I sincerely hope so. Let us search for it. In love and appreciation Hideko N.

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Just as it takes a whole village to raise a child, it will take a united global community to create the kind of world we wish to see.