Oddly Enough

Bureaucrats get training in stand-up comedy

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s bureaucrats may have little to laugh about these days, given opposition charges of misspent tax money, but that has not stopped one ministry offering its officials a unique form of training -- as stand-up comics.

More than 100 transport ministry officials in their 20s got tips this week from professional comedians as part of training in communication skills.

“By experiencing comedy routines, we hope they can learn more about how to speak to clients and how to manage their staff as they begin to have more management responsibility,” said Atsuya Kawada, deputy director of the ministry’s personnel division.

The training coincides with attacks by the main opposition Democratic Party, eying victory in a looming election, on what the party calls wasteful public spending due to decades of policy collusion between bureaucrats and ruling party lawmakers.

Kawada said the approach was better than just listening to lectures for young officials, who are often tired from long working hours.

“We also hope this training will soften the stiff image of bureaucrats,” he added.

Reporting by Yoko Nishikawa, Editing by Linda Sieg