Japanese women are entering the male-dominated world of hunting — at the government’s request

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Hunter Masami Hata shoots at a duck in a forest outside Hakusan.
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Thomas Peter/Reuters

In Japan, it was once considered taboo for a woman to speak with a man before he went on a hunt. But a rising number of female hunters are taking up arms, at their government’s behest.

Over the last decade, Japanese farmers have lost up to $170 million annually because of a booming deer and boar population, among other animals that nosh on vegetable crops. The Ministry of Agriculture enlists hunters to help control the pest problem and protect the farms.

At the same time, there are fewer male hunters in Japan due to age and rural depopulation. Hunting groups and local governments are now recruiting women to get the job done.

Thomas Peter, a German photographer based in Tokyo, spent time with budding female hunters for Reuters in late 2016. Here’s a look at what it was like.


Just over 1% of registered hunters in Japan are women.

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Morning mist rises behind a hunting lodge in a forest outside Hakusan.
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Thomas Peter/Reuters

But that could soon change. Reuters reports that local Japanese governments are recruiting women through social media to enter the male-dominated world of hunting.

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Thomas Peter/Reuters

They need whatever help they can get. Since the late 1990s, the deer population in Japan has shot up over 650%, from less than 400,000 to more than three million.

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Deer bones are seen in a shed.
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Thomas Peter/Reuters

The boar population is also growing out of control, doubling from about 500,000 to one million over the same period, according to the Ministry of Environment and Reuters.

The animals feast on vegetable crops, costing farmers up to $170 million annually.


The national agency responsible for oversight of agriculture, forestry, and fishing, told Reuters it tried building fences and chasing animals away in order to minimize deaths.

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Hunter Fujiko Nagata and her husband Izumi walk in a forest looking for bear in Hakusan.
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Thomas Peter/Reuters

“But it wasn’t enough,” said Kazuhiro Akiba, head of the ministry’s Wildlife Management Office in Tokyo. He added that hunting is necessary to “maintain a healthy ecosystem.”

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Hunter Chiaki Kodama points at a deer prints on a road outside Oi.
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Thomas Peter/Reuters

Cue the women.

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Hunters Chiaki Kodama and Aoi Fukuno eat breakfast before their hunting trip in Oi.
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Thomas Peter/Reuters

Chiaki Kodama is a hairdresser and a city councilor in her late twenties. She always longed to be a hunter, to protect farms and her own crops, and got a license in 2014.

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Hunter Chiaki Kodama guts a deer in a shed in Oi.
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Thomas Peter/Reuters

Source: Youth Democracy Promotion Agency


She invites aspiring female hunters to join her on hunts and learn training on-the-go. (There are also more formal hunting classes and tours available for women nationwide.)

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Hunter Chiaki Kodama blows a deer whistle.
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Thomas Peter/Reuters

On a day when photographer Thomas Peter tagged along, Kodama took a friend on a hunt in a forest outside Oi, located in Japan’s central region. She shot a deer, but it ran off.

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Hunter Chiaki Kodama shoots a deer in a forest outside Oi.
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Thomas Peter/Reuters

Kodama and her friend and pupil, Aoi Fukuno, 28, tracked the animal through the woods and found it dead. Fukuno watched as Kodama gutted the deer and laid it to drain in the river.

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Blood flows from the body of a dead deer in a forest creek outside Oi.
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Thomas Peter/Reuters

The two women carried and loaded the dead deer into their truck. “It’s exciting to finally see with my own eyes what I read in textbooks to get my license,” Aoi told Reuters.

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Hunter Chiaki Kodama loads a deer she shot onto her truck in a forest outside Oi.
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Thomas Peter/Reuters

Women hunters are finding all kinds of ways to repurpose the animals after they’ve been filled. Fujiko Nagata makes purses from deer skin in her workshop in Hakusan.

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Hunter Fujiko Nagata stitches a purse made of deer skin at her workshop in Hakusan.
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Thomas Peter/Reuters

Fujiko Nagata, a hunter and mother, is seen removing the hide of a boar she shot.

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Hunter Fujiko Nagata carries her son Ryo as she removes the hide of a boar at her gutting station in Hakusan.
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Thomas Peter/Reuters

Nagata and her husband turn the animal’s flesh into sausages, which they serve at their restaurant. Wild boar tastes like a pork-beef hybrid and is known for its juiciness.

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Hunter Fujiko Nagata and her husband Izumi stand with their son Ryo in the kitchen of their restaurant in Hakusan.
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Thomas Peter/Reuters

Source: Northfork Bison


It’s unclear if women’s entry in hunting has put a dent in the deer and boar overpopulation. One farmer told Reuters he welcomes any hunter, male or female, on his land to help.

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A deer carcass hangs in a shed to drain.
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Thomas Peter/Reuters

Hunting is not a man’s world anymore.

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Hunter Yasuyo Kitagawa holds Chiro, the offspring of her hunting dog at her farm in Oi.
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Thomas Peter/Reuters