"Continuing to work
the rest of life"
Daiwa LifeNext, part of the Daiwa House Group, employs numerous elderly people as building managers for condominiums. They have high hopes of continuing to work the rest of their lives.

Building Manager D’Cladear Takamibaba Daiwa LifeNext Co., Ltd. Katsumi Tokuchi Building Manager D’Cladear Takamibaba Daiwa LifeNext Co., Ltd. Katsumi Tokuchi

Building Manager D’Cladear Takamibaba Daiwa LifeNext Co., Ltd.

Katsumi Tokuchi

2009: Joined Daiwa LifeNext and was assigned to D’Cladear Takamibaba

2019: Winner of DLN Spirit Award 2018 (company awards program)

Greeting a new residentGreeting a new resident

A spirit of going the extra mile

Spirit of Hearts

Nishisengoku-Cho in Kagoshima City. Once the site of samurai residences and a place where the likes of Saigou Takamori and Okubo Toshimichi must have strode about, it has since transformed into a neighborhood of closely packed buildings. Standing on one of its corners is a 15-story condominium, the workplace of Katsumi Tokuchi, a Daiwa LifeNext building manager.

Tokuchi gets an early start. At seven in the morning, just as the streets are starting to come to life, he can be found in front of the multi-story mechanical parking system. He is there to enter the pallet numbers to the parking system's control panel, breaking off from his cleaning work when he sees a resident walking down to get out their car for the commute to work. At this hour of the day, he knows the faces and pallet numbers of almost everyone by heart. It is not one of his assigned duties as such, rather a practice he took over from his predecessor: a priceless chance for communication by exchanging a few words with the residents.

As this is going on, a steady stream of children emerge from the building on their way to school. Each of them receives a greeting and a high-five. Tokuchi has been working at the condominium for 10 years. Children he once knew as infants have grown up, while those of junior high school age on the verge of adolescence run past as if too shy to stop. He adores them all the same, even as they rush on past. Children are always a source of cheer for Tokuchi.

Operating the mechanical parking system

Operating the mechanical parking system

Relationship of cooperation that underpins trustRelationship of cooperation that underpins trust

Motivation comes from
the smiling faces of children

Spirit of Hearts

Tokuchi's previous job was in planning and design work for urban development. He worked up until retirement age in a job that seldom brought him into contact with anyone other than the colleagues and others he dealt with in his work. From now on, he wants to meet more people.

"For once in my life I wanted a job as a building manager where I would be working with people."

While there were openings elsewhere, wanting to work at Daiwa LifeNext was an instant decision. "It was fate," he laughs. On taking the job, it was to this condominium that he was assigned. On arriving on this first day, he looked up at the building with a feeling of elation, saying to himself, "This is where I work from now on."

The job of a building manager is varied. The working hours are from seven in the morning until three in the afternoon. There is the task, shared with a cleaner, of cleaning common areas. Also the task of inspecting the surrounding site and dealing with residents' inquiries up until the concierge arrives in the afternoon.

There is also an extra difficulty that is unique to Kagoshima: the ash from Sakurajima Volcano. Starting work on the top floor, it takes several days to reach the bottom, by which time the top floor is covered again in a dusting of white. Two or three years into the job he was on the receiving end of a telling off from a resident for missing part of his cleaning duties. Despite doing his best, he was discouraged by not being able to explain himself to the person and was left feeling he ought to quit. But, he did not quit. What kept him going was the children and the happy words they would send his way.

"Good morning", "See you later Tokuchi-san", "Hi, Tokuchi-san, I'm home."

Wanting to do something that would delight the children, he set about a new plan that would take him beyond the role of building manger.

Gathering of building management staff

Gathering of building management staff

Cleaning inside the condominiumCleaning inside the condominium

Going about work wholeheartedly

Spirit of Hearts

One day, Kawakami-san, who as living coordinator has the job of managing the building managers, received an inquiry from Tokuchi: he wanted to hold a year-end mochitsuki event (in which people make mochi rice cakes by pounding rice).

The practice in the past for condominium events had been that they would be organized by the governing committee of the building management association. Kawakami-san promptly looked into the matter within the company but declined the idea on the basis that handling food was problematic. As an alternative, it was suggested that the management association put up a Christmas tree. The event, which had children helping to decorate a tree tall enough to reach the ceiling of the entrance lobby, was a great success.

Tokuchi came to Kawakami with another suggestion prior to the 10th anniversary of the building's construction. He wanted to give people something to remember by coming up with a plan that children and adults could enjoy all year round. Kawakami agreed and a year-long plan for an anniversary event was put to the governing committee and the go-ahead was given. The first step was to invite residents to draw up posters announcing the 10-year anniversary event, with the entries then being exhibited and judged. They worked with the residents through the year that followed, having fun with tanabata (star festival) decorations, craft exhibits of art or writing, and Christmas decorations. When asked whether it wasn't a lot of work, with the bamboo-leaf tanabata decorations and so on all being hand-made, Tokuchi replies that, on the contrary, "I enjoy it."

Ajisaka-san, one of the residents, commented on how Tokuchi is appreciated, saying "He goes about his work wholeheartedly. That word says it all. Everyone loves Tokuchi-san." "His kindness isn't limited just to the building residents," is another comment. Ajisaka-san meets with tourists from overseas and often invites them to her home, always stopping at the entrance to introduce them to Tokuchi. "He is so friendly that people's faces just light up." This gives a sense of how Tokuchi's personality and the quality of his work makes the building such a good place to live.

Condominium resident

Condominium resident

Poster expressing thanks for the awardPoster expressing thanks for the award

You can't do it alone

Spirit of Hearts

To Kawakami-san the living coordinator, Tokuchi is "wonderful, just wonderful!" "The way he exudes an aura of liking people smooths communication with residents."

Kawakami nominated Tokuchi for the awards program that Daiwa LifeNext runs to recognize activities and people that exemplify the DLN Spirit that expresses the company's core values. The program has only 14 winners from around 400 nominees. Tokuchi was delighted to be chosen as one of these, expressing his astonishment by asking, "Do I really deserve this?" Kawakami was delighted to tell him he might appear in the company newsletter. It turned out, however, that this was not the end of the matter.

Tokuchi was invited to visit company headquarters in Akasaka, Tokyo. At a magnificent awards ceremony held there, the company chairman lined up alongside the president and other directors. For Tokuchi, receiving the award was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Going up on stage he was filled with a pleasant tension but has little memory of the event. As soon as the ceremony was over, he went back to Kagoshima as quickly as he could. "I've got work the day after," was his excuse, as if there were no end to his diligence. Nevertheless, the award was a source of genuine delight. Before departing for Tokyo, he expressed his happiness to everyone he met at the condominium.

"I was lucky enough to win an award. It was thanks to all of you."

I came up with my own way of going about my work together with residents. I gladly took onboard all sorts of suggestions. That is why this award is not just for me but one that I won together with the residents. It is a feeling that is reinforced every time someone congratulates me.

A living coordinator whose job is to support the building managers

A living coordinator whose job is to support the building managers

Tokuchi with the concierge (left) and living coordinator (right)Tokuchi with the concierge (left) and living coordinator (right)

People with initiative just keep on going

Spirit of Hearts

Tokuchi has kept many mementos dating back to his first day at the condominium. These include documents, photographs, and handwritten notices. One of these days he will get around to binding them all together in a book. The title is already decided: "Takaga Kanri - Saredo Kanri" (literally: it's only management, but it's still management). While a manager's job might look mundane, the more you do it, the more interesting it becomes. It ends up being something to live for.

In a notebook marked with the inscription "goshuin" is written his philosophy of life: "Ten precepts for a building manager to follow!" They have undergone numerous revisions. The tenth of these is "Dedicate yourself wholeheartedly to service." If you put your heart into what you do, you will find happiness yourself and the residents too will be able to live happily. This creates a virtuous circle that builds up an intangible trust.

The times back in his second and third year when he thought about quitting were a turning point. He is where he is today thanks to not giving up and instead putting his heart into his work along with the residents, drawing support from Kawakami as someone on whom he could rely. The extra psychological strength he now possessed, that he hadn't had when younger, was what helped him come to enjoy his new work.

He is now 68 years old. He intends to keep working until he is 75 and counts back from this date when deciding on his objectives. People with the shizai-senri attitude of going the distance cannot contain their exuberance even as they get old. They can't help but enjoy every day.

Trophy presented by company awards program

Trophy presented by company awards program

Notebook containing a philosophy for life

Notebook containing a philosophy for life

* The information in this article was current as of July 2019.

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