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Housework and cooking don’t come easy to Japanese men. Most have never learned.

That’s because strict gender roles in domestic affairs have persisted in Japan: The wife usually takes care of meal preparation and cleaning, while the husband supports the family financially.

That labor division has persisted even though a majority of women now work outside the home.

According to a survey by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Japanese men spend an average of 40 minutes a day on household responsibilities and child care, a fifth of the time spent by their wives, and the lowest proportion among rich countries. Only 14 percent said they cooked for themselves on a regular basis.

Still, when men retire and would like to help out more at home, or are forced to because of a new-found single status due to divorce or the death of a spouse, or because their wives are fed up, there is one problem: Men don’t know how to cook or clean.

Enter cooking and home economics classes for older men, which are becoming increasingly popular in Japan.

Masahiro Yoshida, a retired government administrator, is one of a growing number of older Japanese men who have signed up for courses, such as preparing dishes, shopping for meat and cleaning food stains.

“I had no idea how complex the cooking process was,” he told the Washington Post.

Their popularity has also prompted the government to help, with some community centers offering free classes to teach cooking, cleaning, ironing, and how to do the laundry.

For 74-year-old Takeshi Kaneko, the cooking classes have helped him meet more friends and host meals for his adult children following the death of his wife.

“If their mother were alive, she would surely have cooked for them and made them feel at home, so I want to do the same,” Kaneko told the newspaper.

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