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It’s not just Brexit, Abenomics is also driving gold sales in Japan

It's not just Brexit that's driving bullishness in the gold market where spot prices have jumped 25 percent year-to-date.

In the Land of the Rising Sun, Japanese consumers are snapping up gold due to economic jitters even as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe looks to enjoy popular support, securing 70 out of 121 seats up for grabs in the upper house at Sunday's election.

The prime minister's three-pronged package to revive the sclerotic economy – dubbed Abenomics – has led to a sharp plunge in interest rates and a gravity-defying leap in the yen.

The former has blunted the relative attractiveness of government bonds (prices in the secondary market have risen above what investors will receive in principal when bonds mature) while the latter has cheapened assets denominated in foreign currencies.

Japan's largest bullion retailer Tanaka Kikinzoku Kogyo K.K. said on Wednesday that sales in the first half of the year soared 30 percent from a year ago to 15 metric tons, The Nikkei newspaper reported.

Purchases picked up in the month of June after a lull in April and May, the newspaper added.

In the seven days from June 24 to July 4, Tanaka Kinozoku Kogyo's gold bullion sales volume doubled against the previous seven business days, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported.

The trend was also reflected on the Tokyo Commodity Exchange where the daily average volume of gold contracts traded surged 45 percent on-year and 20 percent on-month in June.

The exchange said in a news release last week that the heightened interest was due to the U.K.'s June 23 vote to exit the European Union. As markets recoiled following the unexpected vote, investors fled risky assets and sought refuge in assets perceived to be safe, such as gold.

"Highly volatile foreign exchange markets and uncertainty over long-term financial conditions prompted movement to safe-haven assets," the bourse added.

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Kurita Kaku | Gamma-Rapho | Getty Images

With Brexit pushing up the Japanese yen against the dollar, Japanese investors were also encouraged to increase gold purchases, which are internationally denominated in the dollar, said Kaname Gokon, an analyst at brokerage Okato Shoji in Tokyo.

The surge in demand for gold comes as Japanese investors were already nervous about negative interest rates introduced by the Bank of Japan earlier this year.

"There is a lot of nervousness about (BOJ governor Haruhiko) Kuroda's policies, Abenomics, the fallout from even more negative interest rates and a weaker yen should they continue this path," Gokon told CNBC.

Despite its renewed appetite, Japan still trails China and India as far as gold purchases are concerned.

According to data from the World Gold Council, Japan consumer demand for gold was 6.8 tons in the first quarter of the year, while that for mainland China and India stood at 241 tons and 117 tons, respectively.

Japan, however, is one of the top countries in terms of official gold holdings, stashing 765 tons of gold in its reserves as at March this year. The amount was ahead of India's 558 tons but behind China's 1,800 tons.

Alongside Japan's gold rush is also a jump in the sales of safes—for storing the gold and cash—as well as a rise in gold smuggling according to the country's finance ministry, local media reported.

There were 177 cases of gold smuggling in the 12 months to June 2015, 22 times the number of cases the year before, according to local media reports.

Aside from demand for the yellow metal, criminals such as the infamous yakuza mafia in Japan were also trying to evade higher consumption taxes that rose to 8 percent from 5 percent in 2014.

The BOJ meanwhile was widely expected to introduce further easing, potentially as soon as its next meeting, which ends July 29 as Abe remained under pressure to deliver on his economic promises.

Analysts were expecting Abe's coalition would now be able to push through fiscal stimulus of potentially as much as 20 trillion yen ($190 billion), which would be around 4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

However, there was still skepticism over what Abenomics could achieve after numerous rounds of easing and stimulus that has failed to boost inflation to target levels and keep the currency competitive.

"It's really hard to see a lot of momentum or a lot of payoff for all the stimulus we've had so far at least," Russell Investments' senior investment strategist for the Asia Pacific, Graham Harman, told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Wednesday.

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