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Ministry gets the joke

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 comedians.

More than 100 Transport Ministry officials got tips this week from professional comedians as part of communication skills training.

"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, eyeing 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.

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


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