Prime Minister Abe’s bold economic agenda – Abenomics– is intended to get the Japanese economy back on track. So far it appears to be working. Stock prices have risen and overall public sentiment appears to be improving. The premier also announced his growth strategy last Friday with a special focus on expanding business opportunities for women. Abe said women are the “key” to the nation’s economic revival and pledged to increase the number of women in the workforce. Fuji-TV (4/22) reported on its opinion survey results, which showed that 65.5% of respondents said they have high hopes for Abenomics, but 83.1% don’t feel that the economy has recovered yet. However, there is a segment of the population that appears to be free of such negativity – young women, or “girls,” as they prefer to be called.
Fuji-TV’s “Super News” (4/12) reported that Izumo City of Shimane Prefecture has achieved economic recovery by focusing on attracting young female tourists. According to the network, Sunrise Izumo, an express train connecting Tokyo and Izumo, is always 99% full on Friday, thanks to the increasing number of women who use the train to go to the Izumo Taisha shrine, which is dedicated to the god of marriage. According to the network, not only the shrine itself but the city of Izumo as a whole is considered to be a place for romance, hence its increasing popularity among young women. The women who visit the city spend money on pieces of paper with fortunes written on them at the shrine and visit Matsue Castle to look for a heart symbol hidden on a wooden pillar that is said to bring happiness. Restaurants in the city are also capitalizing on this Izumo boom, coming up with menus that, you guessed it, “promise romance.”
According to the network, the places where girls gather are always the key to economic recovery. Travel companies have already set their sights on young women, with JTB, H.I.S., and other travel agencies creating new travel packages only for girls, called “joshi-tabi” (girls travel). Nowadays, restaurants and cafes have special plans for “joshi-kai,” parties for girls only. There are many special categories of girls, too. “Yama-girls” like to trek in the hills dressed in fashionable hiking wear such as short pants or fleece skirts. “Reki-jo” are girls who are fond of history; “tetsu-ko,” girls who love trains; “sha-girl,” girls who love cameras; “run-jo,” girls who are into jogging; and even “tsuri-sienne” (a play on the term “Parisienne”), girls who love fishing. The emergence of these groups of girls has created new markets by turning hobbies that were once dominated by men into trendy and fashionable activities for young women. Nowadays, outdoor gear, sneakers, cameras, and even fishing tackle are available for purchase in pretty colors with spangles. There are even magazines targeting these girls, including “Randonnee,” a magazine for “yama-girls” launched in 2008. Although there is no data available that shows the precise economic effect of young women taking up these hobbies, girl power shows no sign of losing steam.