Japan’s Annual All-Women Flight

Women around the world don’t get nearly enough recognition, as evidenced by the continued efforts by women’s rights groups and activists. But there are quite a few nations that do pay homage to women and girls as a matter of cultural pride through ceremonies and other initiatives. In the case of Japan, they’ve added another dimension to such honors.

In accordance with the Hinamatsuri Festival held every March 3rd, Japan Airlines operated a flight that was staffed entirely by women. The Hinamatsuri festival is revered as a special day in Japan that honors young women and also serves as a celebration and prayer for their continued health. It’s also celebrated in Florence, Italy as well as in Hawaii. This day is also referred to as Doll’s Day because of the ceremonial usage of porcelain dolls; these dolls are said to take bad spirits with them when put out to water. JAL put together the special flight with the assistance of Ari Fuji, the country’s first ever certified female airline captain. The official crew tally included Fuji, a co-pilot as well as four flight attendants. The flight was also serviced by a maintenance crew comprised entirely of women. Passengers who arrived at the gate within Haneda Airport in Tokyo that morning were treated to gifts of commemorative cards as well as hina-arare and hishimochi, sugared rice cakes that are a staple of the Hinamatsuri festival. Once all were aboard, the flight then took off for Nagasaki.

The flight was significant for a country that only has 27 women among its 4,800 pilots on active duty, resulting in a paltry 0.6 percent representation. Captain Fuji has gone on record asking for more women to become part of the airline industry; including herself, there are only 11 women pilots in the JAL Group. The all-women flight is fast becoming a respected tradition in Japan, with one co-worker stating to reporters that he makes it a point to take the day off every year to take part in the flight and all of the festivities. At this rate, JAL’s Hinamatsuri flight could soon be a magnetic tourist attraction all its own.