There are few things in the world less sexy than monetary policy, but one Japanese girl group is trying really, really hard to turn that around.
The group is called Michikado Keiki Japan -- “Economic Conditions on the Streets of Japan,” per the Japan Times -- and its members promise to wear shorter skirts every time Japan’s Nikkei stock market makes significant gains. They also sing on such riveting pop-culture topics as quantitative easing and central banks: “Fix the yen’s appreciation. Quantitative easing. Don’t forget public investment,” translates the Japan Times. “Monetary easing. Construction bonds. Let’s just revise the Bank of Japan Law.”
During interludes, the group’s fans reportedly shout phrases like “private investment!” and “Shinzo Abe!” back at them. Abe is the country's prime minister and the namesake of "Abenomics," his strategy to recover Japan's economy.
Abe, the Japanese prime minister since December, could hardly ask for a more enthusiastic endorsement of his controversial economic reform package. Since coming into office, Abe has pushed for an aggressive mix of financial stimulus, structural reforms (like new labor laws and incentives for corporate investment) and quantitative easing -- the practice of buying up bonds to boost inflation and lower interest rates.
By some metrics, consumers and markets reacted well at first. The Post’s Chico Harlan, writing from Tokyo in late May, described a sudden “boomtown” where shoppers splurge at high-end restaurants, designer stores and Ferrari dealerships. The Japanese stock market soared earlier this year. But in recent weeks, that same market has grown unusually volatile, leading some to question Abe’s still-unproven methods. On Thursday, for instance, the Japanese stock market saw a huge sell-off and the Nikkei index fell 6.35 percent.
In Michikado Keiki terms, that translates to a costume change from “no skirt” to “mini-skirt," according to a J-pop fan blog. The Nikkei will have to fall another 3.6 percent for the girls to transition to medium-length skirts, which they haven’t had to dig out since early March.
Interestingly, none of the band members -- who range in age from 16 to 23, according to the Japan Times -- are studying economics or invest in the stock market. That might explain how they ended up basing their schtick on a phenomenon called "the hemline index," an idea that economists have disproved several times over. The “hemline index,” theory posits that women take more risks -- and thus, wear shorter skirts -- when the economy is up.
Michikado Keiki Japan might be better off judging the state of the economy, and Abe’s policies, by the reception they get from world leaders this weekend. The prime minister is pitching his policies at the Group of Eight’s annual summit in London.