One of the newest Japanese buzz words is "katana joshi" (カタナ女子) or "katana woman". You know, for ladies who are really into Japanese swords.
The phrase "katana joshi" has been trending on Twitter, while numerous national news programs have been introducing the fad.
The text asks, "Why has there been a surge in katana women?" And damn, that newscaster is looking boss as hell.
"Katana women are proliferating!!" LOCK YOUR DOORS.
Another news program (this one from this week). The text reads, "Why are women coming to look at swords?"
Nobody in Japan is saying that women SHOULD NOT be into katana. That would be silly! Rather, katana hasn't been something most young people -- guys or gals -- are into. Like youth anywhere, they're into their friends, their phones, their whatever. Going around in Japan, looking at swords is something old people do.
Then, there is the history of katana. Women did not carry swords. Regular men did not, either. Swords were for the samurai, and samurai were (generally!) tough fucking dudes. Katana do represent Japanese machismo, but these blades are more than that: They're stunning artistic works that are symbolic of the country's craftsmanship and technological prowess.
What's the reason for the sudden increase in interest?
An online browser game called Touken Ranbu, which launched earlier this year. Via the game's English wiki, here's a quick description:
Players assume the role of a Saniwa sage (審神者) who travels into the past to defeat evil forces that are trying to change the course of history. As a sage, you have the ability to breathe life into inanimate objects, including famous historical swords. Your duty is to bring these blades to life, create an army, and defeat the enemies!
These animated swords are handsome men, and the game is popular with young women. In Japan, Touken Ranbu has over a million registered players.
When Japanese news programs ask women why they're checking out katana at museums or exhibits, there's a common response.
"Because of the game's influence."
"It's because of an online game..."
That's celebrity Shoko Nakagawa. No, she's not about to poke that dude's eye out. I hope.
The trend didn't appear out of thin air. A few years back, the Sengoku Basara video games, which star good-looking versions of famous samurai, became incredibly popular with women and were part of the reki-jo (歴女), or women into history, subculture. Basically, these are history geeks that love studying samurai.
The katana woman "boom," as this news show calls it, has lead to exercise classes that use Japanese swords.
Katana exercise actually predates this latest trend... I don't know anyone personally here in Japan who's doing it. Personally, I'd be afraid I'd let a sword accidentally fly!
But this woman says it's good for reducing stress. Yeah, I can see that.