The lure of nature and a slower pace of life are attracting a growing number of young women to Japan's traditionally male-dominated forestry business, and their participation may help it cope with an aging workforce and a shortage of manpower.

Junko Iizuka, a 33-year-old graduate of the prestigious University of Tokyo, quit her job as an organizer of international trade fairs about four years ago to join lumber company Tokyo Chainsaws in the village of Hinohara in western Tokyo. "I was attracted to work outdoors, in which I can directly make changes and try new things," she said, adding that what impressed her about the company was that it not only logs and sells trees but also leads initiatives to protect forests and raise public interest in them.

It took her two years to persuade the head of the company to take her on, overcoming the concern that — given her slight physique — she would not be up to the physical demands of the job. She has since learned how to operate chain saws and other equipment. Although she saw her income decline, she was quite happy to swap commuting in packed trains for the "pleasure" of sweating while logging, pruning and weeding. Besides, she said, the physical work is not as hard as it seems, given the machines used in the industry.