In 2007, just before the global financial crisis, a group of Japanese housewives were briefly mentioned in an article in The New York Times. Described as amateur currency speculators, these women were hitting their peak, representing thirty percent of all retail currencies traded out of Japan. Through their engagement with the FOREX market, these women were and are challenging the traditional position of Japanese women in an introverted and closed country dominated by established conventions of gendered domesticity, hegemonic financial environments and historically-determined expectations for behavior. Although carefully watched from official financial centers, not much is known about these women, also called the Watanabes or FX Beauties. Who they are? How do they live? Why are they trading? In a neoliberal economy, the exchange of money represents a fluid infrastructure, which can appear as impossible to grasp. While a large portion of these female traders choose to remain unofficial members of the virtual collective due to fear of being ‘caught in action’, the total number of members is currently estimated at five million. However, the Japanese government has also stated that this could be an underestimation, and the reality of the FX Beauties community could be much larger than originally presumed. The FX Beauties’ leading figure, Mrs. Yukiko Ikebe is now domestically celebrated in the manner of a celebrity pop star. Operating the FX Beauties through calculated performative behavior, Mrs. Ikebe represents a contemporary take on the ‘rouge trader’, simultaneously working with and against the established market. Acting within a virtual network, the trading disrupts and challenges the assumptions of daily routines. Intertwined with the planned domestic duties and in-sync with the official trading hours, the FX Beauty often trades while the rest of the family are away from home. Constituting itself in-between the non-physical and official sphere of money, the act of the unofficial gambling by The FX Beauties is rife with symbolic contradictions. Traditionally, the domestic labor of the housewives has been to protect and control the savings of the family and to secure the stability of income and outcome. Through the system called kozukai the woman manages the budgets and determines the pocket money for the husband as a monthly allowance. As an FX Beauty this is gambled, possibly in an attempt to empower her position through financial independency and as retaliation against her domestication. With an anonymous role in a genderless system of constant fluctuation, the women question the limitations of the home and the role of the housewife. The FX Beauties Club aims to suggest an architecture that reflects and celebrates the shifting position of the women working within a self governed and decentralized network. Turning towards the weekly trading charts of founder Mrs. Ikebe, the club is positioned in-between the virtuosity of global flows and the physicality of the home. In the search for a potential higher return, the women are reproducing their domestic realm by challenging the established link between capital and space.
"The act of trading can be lonely as it is done individually"
"I just have heard a word ‘Mrs. Watanabe’ before to represent active Japanese housewife investors"
"And while I did house things, teaching flower arrangement, I studied every night from about 10PM to 4AM"