Japan’s fearless women speculators

Discussion in 'Trading' started by ASusilovic, Mar 15, 2009.

  1. Nakako Ishiyama sits quietly in the living room of her apartment in the old Nihonbashi quarter of Tokyo, not far from its famous stone bridge – the point from which, in Edo times, all distances in Japan were measured. The neighbourhood was once part of the city’s financial district, and Ishiyama’s flat is strolling distance from the Bank of Japan, the venerable institution that controls the amount of yen in circulation and, via the interest rate it sets, the cost of money.

    Ishiyama serves green tea and autumn chestnut biscuits. She has been telling me about her investment history since around 2000 – the time, not coincidentally, when the Bank of Japan first pushed interest rates down to within a hair’s breadth of zero. Largely without the knowledge of her husband, Ishiyama began investing the couple’s money, mainly in lots of around $50,000. And didn’t stop. Each fund in which she entrusted their retirement nest egg – or toranoko, “tiger’s cub”, in Japanese – has a more elaborate name than the last. As she lists each one she invariably adds as a suffix the words nantoka nantoka – “something or other” or “thingamajig”. It is not altogether reassuring.

    “Now let’s see, there was the Global Infrastructure Thingamajig Fund,” she says. “And the Emerging Currency Something or Other Fund. And the Australian Fixed Term Whatever-You-Call-It Fund.” Shy and anxious (she refused to be photographed), 66-year-old Ishiyama does not look like someone who has played a role – however modest – in the drama that has engulfed the global financial system. Yet she and many of her peers have done exactly that. Japan’s housewives have acted as the guardians of the country’s vast household savings built up since its rise to prosperity after the devastation of war. At more than Y1,500,000bn (some $16,800bn), these savings are considered the world’s biggest pool of investable wealth. Most of it is stashed in ordinary Japanese bank accounts; a surprisingly large amount is kept at home in cash, in tansu savings, named for the traditional wooden cupboards in which people store their possessions. But from the early 2000s, the housewives – often referred to collectively as “Mrs Watanabe”, a common Japanese surname – began to hunt for higher returns.


    [b"]"Mrs Watanabe" still alive ![/b]:D