Skip to main content

'Abenomics' changing opinions and skirt lengths in Japan

By Diana Magnay, CNN
April 23, 2013 -- Updated 0636 GMT (1436 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's new economic program is dubbed "Abenomics"
  • Many are skeptical about whether this is the solution for Japan's malaise
  • Some fear the boost to the country's stock markets could produce a bubble
  • 1980s collapse followed decades of growing stock, property prices

Tokyo (CNN) -- Most Japanese treat Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's new economic program, dubbed "Abenomics," with a heavy dose of skepticism.

If there is a miracle cure for Japan's decades-long malaise, then it'll have to be seen to be believed. And Abe himself admits it will take time for salaries to rise and for the real economy to respond to treatment.

But in Tokyo's central Akihabara district, four young Abenomics devotees dressed in giant glittery bow-ties and denim mini-skirts are handing out fliers. They chant: "We're the Street Corner Economists -- please come to our concert'!"

Granted, it's less the promise of massive public spending programs, the whirring of the monetary printing press or the slightly ambiguous growth strategies pulling in the punters here. It's more about the girl band's coquettish sales pitch.

"When the economy is good the skirt lengths get shorter," says 20-year-old band member Yuki Sakora.

Japan tries to revive economy
Bold moves from the Bank of Japan

"So when the Nikkei goes below 9,000 we wear long skirts; when it's between 10 and 11,000 we go medium-length, and miniskirts when it's 11 to 13,000."

Their signature tune "Abenomics" has only been on sale a couple of weeks, but the audience seem to know it. An assortment of geeky 20-something males and the odd suited salaryman faithfully mirror the girls' dance-routine, punching the air with glow-sticks when the refrain comes through.

Perhaps it's because the Nikkei's wedged firmly above 13,000, so they're treated to the girls in bloomers.

I ask Yuki what Abenomics means to her.

"The weaker yen probably means prices will go up," she says without missing a beat. "But that helps exports. And I think companies will start to earn more and that will boost consumer spending."

That is the theory but it requires a shift in thinking.

"Our biggest problem is that the general public has been stuck with deflation -- in mind and heart -- for the past 20 years," Japan's Finance Minister Taro Aso told CNN's Jill Dougherty recently.

"People don't buy things today because they think tomorrow it will be cheaper. Unless this mindset changes and people start buying things, consumption, which is near 70% of GDP, won't grow."

Toru Urayama set up an academy in 2007 to teach amateur traders how to make money on the markets. In the last few months of the Nikkei's meteoric rise he's experienced a flood of applicants. But he tells them not to hold out hope that Abenomics will do much in the long term.

It's good for the stock market but not for the economy as a whole. It could lead to a bubble.
Toru Urayama

"It's good for the stock market but not for the economy as a whole. It could lead to a bubble, though I don't think it will be as bad as it was back in the 1980s," he said, referring to the spectacular crash that followed decades of soaring stock and real estate values in Japan.

Megumi Fukuzawa's signed up because she made a bad investment in 2008 and is wondering what to do with her money now the market's up. She's hoping Abenomics boosts her husband's salary.

"In the past I've tried to save because his salary was low. But if things change then I might spend more, this stock market investment is part of that."

Back on stage, the Street Corner Economists finish their song in a blaze of multi-colored lights, before they settle in for a chat with the fans. Everyone dutifully sits down. But when the girls ask whether anyone's bought the single, there's not much of a response.

The appeal here is more show than substance. Precisely what critics fear so-called Abenomics will turn out to be too.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1236 GMT (2036 HKT)
Europe's deteriorating relationship with Russia has hit the region's growth, even before new food sanctions begin to bite.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1634 GMT (0034 HKT)
With cyberattacks on the rise and here to stay, it's a modern-day challenge for people and businesses to get smarter about preventing them.
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 1324 GMT (2124 HKT)
Airstrikes, rebels seizing control of oil fields, plus a severe refugee crisis are a recipe for market panic. So why are Iraq oil prices stable?
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1524 GMT (2324 HKT)
Evidence points to pro-Russian separatists as perpetrators of the attack and Vladimir Putin is facing uncomfortable questions, David Clark writes.
August 5, 2014 -- Updated 1440 GMT (2240 HKT)
The biggest Ebola outbreak in history is taking its toll in Western Africa, hitting some of West Africa's most vulnerable economies.
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 0902 GMT (1702 HKT)
Macau has overtaken Switzerland in the wealth stakes, being named the world's fourth richest territory by the World Bank.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1447 GMT (2247 HKT)
Saudi Arabian Bateel brand is best known for its delectable dates but it now has more than a dozen cafes and a new bakery in the works.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1100 GMT (1900 HKT)
A British nanotech company has created what it says is the world's darkest material. It is so dark the human eye can't discern its shape and form.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1602 GMT (0002 HKT)
Jibo robot is designed to be an organizer, educator and assist family members. CNN's Maggie Lake met him and says she was impressed with his skills.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 2109 GMT (0509 HKT)
American burger joints have sprung up all over London, but how to know which ones are best? CNN's Jim Boulden investigates.
June 18, 2014 -- Updated 1222 GMT (2022 HKT)
Sandwiched in between Iraq and Syria, Jordan's destiny seems to be one of a constant struggle for survival. John Defterios explains.
June 18, 2014 -- Updated 1502 GMT (2302 HKT)
At the last football World Cup, it was all about 3D. This time around, it's nothing less than 4K.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1058 GMT (1858 HKT)
Bob Mazzer has photographed inside London's Tube network for 40 years. He's captured history.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1712 GMT (0112 HKT)
Exotic animals are becoming a profitable business opportunity for Nicaraguan entrepreneurs. CNN's Rafael Romo reports.
June 13, 2014 -- Updated 1529 GMT (2329 HKT)
Iraq produces 3.3 million barrels per day and has the world's fourth-largest oil reserves. But the current crisis is putting all this in danger.
June 18, 2014 -- Updated 1222 GMT (2022 HKT)
Sandwiched in between Iraq and Syria, Jordan's destiny seems to be one of a constant struggle for survival. John Defterios explains.
June 16, 2014 -- Updated 1314 GMT (2114 HKT)
The gas standoff between Russia and Ukraine could have a knock-on effect on Europe. Explore this map to find out why is the EU nervous.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1058 GMT (1858 HKT)
Bob Mazzer has photographed inside London's Tube network for 40 years. He's captured history.
June 17, 2014 -- Updated 1206 GMT (2006 HKT)
The UK capital promotes its tech stars and shows it can compete with Silicon Valley. Here are five companies that pitch to make it big.
ADVERTISEMENT