Interview with Masaki Fujimoto: Back in Japan, and reflecting on his Portland experience working at the Encorepreneur Cafe.

Looking for a different career, Masaki Fujimoto happened across a gerontology class at Portland Community College.  It was a good move.

Before working for the Encorepreneur Cafe you worked as an editor.  Can you talk a little bit about what you were doing pre-Encorepreneur Cafe (EPC)? How did you get interested in working with seniors?

Man wearing mask and hat in front of buildings.

Masaki Fujimoto returns to Japan after 4 years in Portland, OR. He is still working for the Encorepreneur Cafe.

I earned my bachelor’s degree in computer science. I started my career as a software engineer. Then I worked as a tech magazine editor. I liked the job itself, but I did not like the company. I realized I drank with the same coworker every weekend and complained about the same thing about the company. I needed a change and decided to study abroad. My American friend recommended Portland (he had never been there). When I scanned the PCC website from A to Z to choose the major, I found an unknown word at G. It was gerontology. I looked up the dictionary and knew it was a study about seniors. My intuition told me it was what I should study.
My past career was totally different, but I had thought population aging was one of the most important issues in Japan. Also, my intuition might be influenced by my mother who was a nurse.
However, I thought I would go back to Japan in less than two years because I did not have enough money. Then, a Japanese American family asked me to live with their 95-year-old grandma. In exchange for taking care of her, I could live in her house for free. I could save money to graduate from the PCC Gerontology Program.
One day, Taka Murakawa met one of my friends at the coffee shop by chance. Taka talked with my friend about his new business plan. My friend told Taka that he knew a Japanese guy who studied old people. That’s why I joined Encorepreneur Café.
What was the best part about working at the Encorepreneur Cafe?

I had met wonderful people through working at the EPC. If I had been just a student, I would never have met them. Portlanders (are comfortable around) aging issues, and are kind and inclusive. Awkward Japanese guys came to Portland and tried to do an odd business, but many people listened to us and told us it was a great idea. I was impressed with that attitude. Of course, Jackie is one of them.
I was also happy that many Portlanders love Japanese culture. It was a pleasure that people enjoyed our Japanese cultural programs such as Japanese films, language club, and Mahjong. For example, we have regular audiences who were seniors in our Mahjong club. They said that they had been interested in Mahjong for a long time but couldn’t have found a place where they could learn it from the beginning. So, I was happy that our Mahjong club could help them to enjoy their life.

What did you miss most about Japan?

Authentic Japanese food. Especially a variety of fresh fish. In the United States, fish is more expensive but lower quality.
What do you miss most about living in Portland, Oregon?

I’m a beer guy. Oregon craft beer is the best in the world. In contrast to fish, craft beer is more expensive but lower quality in Japan. Before I came to Portland, I did not know it was a beer city. I was really happy to choose Portland.
What are you doing now?

I am working for Shinkokai, which is funding the Encorepreneur Cafe. Shinkokai group runs senior care facilities, nursery schools, and facilities for people with disabilities. Due to my previous careers, I am mainly managing IT systems and web marketing. Also, Shinkokai has started a franchise of Home Instead, a global in-home care provider. I am involved in the Home Instead Japan project too. And, of course, I am still working for the Encorepreneur Cafe from Japan.
I live in Yokohama, which is known as the prominent port city with Japan’s largest Chinatown. Yokohama is about 30 minutes from Tokyo by train. When the pandemic is over, please come visit Yokohama.
Check out what’s happening at the Encorepreneur Cafe.