Anyone well versed in Buddhist culture or simply Asian history in general is likely aware that the swastika has a long history which predates its association with the German Nazi party. In fact, swastika’s or as their called in Japanese “manji” are common features in most of the ancient Buddhist temples of Japan. While in Post-war years, the symbol had largely faded from modern use due to it’s now obvious connotations to Fascism. It would seem a rather unexpected demographic has taken it upon themselves to make swastika’s great again. Teenage Japanese Schoolgirls.
Take for example this screenshot captured from an official commercial for the most popular messaging app in Japan, Line. In the advertisement a group of schoolgirls cheerfully record a dance routine where they make swastika shapes with their arms and bodies while cheering out “Manji, Manji” repeatedly. This commercial reflects a growing surge in popularity of the symbol among female school age types in the country. Where in most other places in the world, the symbol’s usage in almost any form would cause instant hysteria and outrage. In Japan it’s quickly becoming more just something thrown on top of young girls Instagram posts in an effort to look cool and trendy.
For further proof of just how popular the symbol has once again become in Japan, take into consideration the fact it was voted the number one buzzword among Japanese schoolgirls in late 2016. Also worth noting is that manji, when written in Japanese simply appears directly as 卍 itself. In comparison the word when spoken, has slowly become a slang catchall type term. With a seeming wide variety of meanings. One popular use is to say “manji” when taking pictures, along the lines of how American’s might say “cheese” instead.
Keep in mind this is a country who is certainly intimately familiar with what the symbol still means to the rest of the world. With Japan actually still having a sizable and even growing population of legitimate Neo-Nazi’s and sympathizers, likely due to their role as German allies back during the war. Which is why it’s all together even stranger that we now have a situation where the same symbol is being carried in far right marches on the streets of Tokyo, and also cheerfully being placed on school lunches as decoration.
When discussing the history of the manji symbol a still popular misconception is that the Nazi party only ever used a tilted variant in their uniforms and flags. But this is actually not true, as while the slightly tilted version was the most common by far, it was from from the only design used by Germany at the time. With far more traditional manji symbols used by the party quite often as well, serving to blur the lines all the more in terms of just what this symbol really represents. Here in America we routinely ban kids from schools for merely scribbling a swastika like image in their notebooks. Let alone parading them around as a fashion symbol like the youth in Japan today. Considering we live on a continent where merely drawing a swastika in the snow consistently leads to full scale police investigations. It’s almost hard to understand how the symbol is allowed to be used so casually in a country that was equally involved in World War 2.
Predictability some on the Left who have caught wind of this new trend in the land of the rising sun are less then happy about it. Outraged that these young girls are seemingly “normalizing hate speech” by presenting the symbol as something fashionable. Ignoring the fact that like almost all teenage rebellion, it’s not about hate so much as simply upsetting the old guard. Unlike those below, I believe these girls are fully aware of both the religious and political histories of the symbol, and by subverting it into something altogether new. Are just doing what teens always do, rebelling against the past.
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