Japan is not known for its gender equality. From geishas to Harajuku Girls, Japanese women have been battling gender stereotypes and sexism for centuries.
The latest Global Gender Gap Report from the World Economic Forum put Japan at 111th of 144 countries, 10 places lower than last year. In Japan, the report stated, there is a “significant widening of the gender gap for professional and technical workers, adversely affecting its ranking.”
However, there is one unexpected part of the workforce actively attracting more women and breaking gender barriers — deer hunting.
Thomas Peter, a German photographer based in Tokyo, spent time with this new crop of female hunters late last year for Reuters. The Agency reported Japan’s “national hunting groups and local governments are trying to recruit women through social media, as well as offering hunting tours and classroom training. The national association’s website has a blog page titled ‘Aspire to be a Female Hunter!,’ where women write about their hunting experiences. One writer noted the ‘kind gesture’ when she found portable toilets for female hunters in rest huts.”
Supporters say deer hunting in Japan is crucial to maintaining the country’s ecosystem. But as the Japan Times reported in 2015, an estimated 2.6 million deer— a ninefold increase since 1995 — exist in the country as the total number of licensed hunters has dropped steeply. According to Reuters, of Japan’s 10,000 registered hunters, two-thirds are 60 or older, while numbers in the 1970s were a soaring 500,000.
While so far only about 1,200 women are hunting, theirs is certainly a job that redefines ladylike.