The beginning of April marks a new start for most Japanese, not only is it the new start of the financial year but it’s also the beginning of the academic year. It’s also the time when many people decide to try their hand at a new hobby, so with this in mind we decided to investigate what activities are popular this year and try to look at the reasons why these hobbies are trending.
One portal that consistently came top when searching the web for hobby ideas was Shyumisagashi.com (Findahobby.com). Not only is the site a compendium of hobby ideas, but it also gives rankings for the popularity of various hobbies, searchable under different catagories of age and gender.
The No. 1 ranking hobby on the site for all ages and genders was yoga. Though yoga was introduced to the Japanese in 806, the recent boom for the activity dates back only to 2004 when increased media exposure sparked on increase in its availability at sports clubs. The reasons people take up yoga are twofold: to lose weight and to combat stress. Enrolling for regular yoga classes can be difficult for some overworked and underpaid office workers, so with this in mind, as part of their Smart Sports Fitness line, AU launched their Ouchi (your home) Yoga Salon in December of last year: Customers follow a yoga workout that is demonstrated on their phone and then receive a mail from their yoga “trainer” encouraging them to keep up the good work.
While yoga is still No. 1 in the women’s ranking, the No. 1 hobby for men, according to Syumisagashi was, perhaps unsurprisingly, photography. What was less expected was the No. 2 ranking across the board of both sexes for “travelling alone in order to find yourself.” The appeal of this was cited as “to enjoy your travel at your own pace.”
Other top ranking hobbies that intrigued were paper crafts at the No. 5 spot and squash at No. 8. Bad news for the struggling eikaiwa (English conversation business), still reeling from the Nova shock, was that the previously popular activity didn’t even hit the top ten for either gender.
Though they also didn’t hit the top spots, we’d like to give a nod to the hobbies that lend themselves to the burgeoning konkatsu (marriage hunting) trend. According to this survey from Goo Ranking (Dec. 2008) taking up a hobby, ranked No. 8, for men as an effective method of finding a partner, while for women, it scored high at No. 3.
This thread on 2chan concerning “hobbies to take up in order to meet members of the opposite sex” contains a rather cynical list (presumably concocted by a male reader) of top ranking hobbies to find women based on considerations of “percentage of women, quality of babes and cost incurred.” Coming in first place is flower arrangement, next is cookery and third is tea ceremony. Women who are serious about searching for a mate might take the same approach and take up golf which, last year became a popular sport for marriage-hungry ladies.
Whatever their motivations, whether it be for fitness, fun, stress release or hooking up with a potential life partner, this season is sure to see people signing up in droves to make a fresh start to the new financial year.