As you probably know, gun ownership in Japan is quite rare, but it certainly does exist. The main reason for people to own firearms (almost always rifles or shotguns) is hunting – which is still mostly dominated by old men. However, one demographic is growing even as the overall number of hunters is shrinking: Young women.
While hunting is often seen as being a sport for men both inside and outside of Japan, the number of young Japanese women hunters in their 20s and 30s is staying steady – and even growing in Hokkaido – while almost all other demographics are shrinking. Even so, women still only account for roughly one percent of Japanese hunters now – but the trend indicates that we’ll soon see more women participating in the sport.
This isn’t occurring entirely in a vacuum though – the Japanese Ministry of the Environment is actively seeking out more hunters among young people in Japan. There are currently about 200,000 hunters in Japan – less than half of the number in 1970 – and around 65% of hunters are men over 60 years old.
So, you might be asking, who cares? What does it matter if there aren’t many (or any) hunters in Japan? Well, it seems that there has been a boom in the deer and wild boar population, which has resulted in them overeating foliage. This is a problem not only for the animals who might soon starving to death, but also for humans. When foliage is overeaten, the result can be dangerous mudslides, which become much more likely without plants to hold the soil in place.
But even though the ministry is seeking new hunters, it doesn’t mean they’ve relaxed their standards one bit. Would-be hunters still have numerous tests to take involving hearing and vision, knowledge of hunting regulations, knowledge of hunting equipment, gun tests, and more. There are additional tests to move up to more powerful guns, or to use nets or traps.
Even with all this trouble to go through, there is still a growing number of women interested in hunting. So, what is the appeal? For some, it’s about getting out in nature, when simply going for a hike isn’t enough. For other women, particularly women hunters in Hokkaido, there’s a far more practical reason for it: Taking care of their homes. In addition to culling excess deer and wild boar, they are able to get delicious food on their own via hunting.
The desire to be self-sufficient is nothing new in Japan, and one Japanese woman, Chiharu Hatakeyama, has even given a TED talk about her quest to live “off the grid.” Hunting offers women (and men, of course) the opportunity to kill their own meat. As one Japanese hunter said, hunted meat is much better for the environment since there’s no pollution caused by factory farms and it’s a literal take on the concept of “local production for local consumption.” Also, wild game simply tastes better, apparently.
One other aspect of hunting that seems to appeal to Japanese women was suggested by the Hokkaido women hunters organization, The Women In Nature, or TWIN. As they explain on their homepage, hunting helps remind them of their place in the world and of Japan’s traditional use of natural resources. Just like any other country, Japanese people have long felt a close bond with the natural world around them. Hunting helps people reconnect with the land and past people’s careful use of the animals they hunted.
For Japanese women interested in taking up hunting in Japan, it’s certainly a rewarding pastime, but it’s not quick, easy or cheap. Still, there’s a clear demand both from women for the unique experiences and from the government for more hunters to help keep wildlife populations in check.
Now the question is: How long until young women hunters out number the old men?
Sources: Naver Matome, TWIN, Nanameyomi Tsushin, Mezase! Kari Girl
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