Masue Katayama

Ashoka Fellow
Tokyo, Japan
Fellow Since 2012


This profile was prepared when Masue Katayama was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2012.
The New Idea
Over the past twenty-five years, Masue has engineered the field of assisted living. In the early 1980s there were only two options available for families who wished to place their elderly in nursing homes: (i) public homes of extremely poor quality and perceived of negatively by society, or (ii) extravagant private homes that only affluent families could afford. Japanese society did not have viable options for middle-class families. Masue knew that even once she created options and made them available, she would need to change attitudes and public perception on nursing care. Through Masue’s for-profit entity, Shinkou-Kai, founded in 1991, she has single-handedly generated a model that is affordable while retaining a quality in the nursing care environment.

To address the stigma attached to nursing homes, Masue ensured that her nursing homes were held to standards that had never been set before. She guaranteed that all of her nursing homes simulated actual homes in terms of level of comfort, décor, service, and food. Becoming aware there was a need for the standards to measure those qualities, she introduced ISO-9001 standards which until then, was the criteria only used to certify and ensure high standards in manufactured products. Masue’s decision to do this not only gave credibility to her nursing homes, but also to the caregivers, whose professional identity is obscure compared to medical professionals.

Masue increases her impact by employing those marginalized in their communities. This includes those disabled, homeless, and most uniquely, non-Japanese Asian. Non-Japanese Asian women married to Japanese nationals are granted permits to work, however, in comparison to Japanese nationals, they are given lower wages, and are treated as second-class citizens in the workplace. Masue set out to change that. Her employment method, treatment of caregivers, and service to the elderly, transformed the caregiving industry and remains intact today.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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