The Buddhist Swastika Becomes Popular Slang In Japan

The Buddhist Swastika Becomes Popular Slang In Japan

[Image: Line]

If you’ve ever been to a Buddhist temple in Japan or looked at a Japanese map, you’ve probably seen swastikas, called “manji” in Japanese, all over. In Japan, the character has become popular youth slang.

As Tofugu points out, the manji has long been a holy and auspicious symbol in Japan and throughout Asia. Now it’s something schoolgirls put in Instagram posts and tweets when showing off their latest hairstyles.

The Buddhist Swastika Becomes Popular Slang In JapanThe above tweet was originally tagged with the hairstyle.

The above tweet was originally tagged with the hairstyle.

Manji, written as 卍 in Japanese, was voted the number one buzzword among Japanese schoolgirls in 2016. Its use continues to grow, and this past spring, message service Line released a video explaining the slang use, among other recent schoolgirl catchphrases.

The Buddhist Swastika Becomes Popular Slang In Japan

In Japanese slang, manji now has an array of meanings. According to My Navi, kids say it when they’re taking photos like the English word “cheese,” and it’s also used to refer to mischevious or excitable personality.

As with the the original character, which can mean mercy or good fortune, its slang version has various definitions.

The Buddhist Swastika Becomes Popular Slang In Japan(Image: Twitter)

[Image: Twitter]

Other uses include “to appear strong,” “high class,” a symbol of someone running (sometimes depicted with Final Fantasy’s Cactuar), and a pun on the Japanese word “maji” (まじ), meaning “seriously” or “really.” It’s even used as punctuation marks or to mean “yay.”

It’s not to be confused with the Nazi swastika, which certainly could happen. This character is the manji.

The Japanese have another word for the Nazi swastika: “haakenkuroitsu” (ハーケンクロイツ), or “hakenkreuz,” which is German for swastika. The Nazi swastika often is tilted, but not always; however, Japanese Buddhism uses both left and right-facing manji. The left-facing horizontal manji is used to mark Buddhist temples.

In the past, there have also been other variations in Japan used as crests.

The Buddhist Swastika Becomes Popular Slang In Japan(Image: Bundesarchiv, Bild 119-0289 / Unknownwikidata:Q4233718 / CC-BY-SA 3.0)

[Image: Bundesarchiv, Bild 119-0289 / Unknownwikidata:Q4233718 / CC-BY-SA 3.0]

Last year, the BBC reported there were plans to drop the manji symbol on Japanese maps because Westerners might mix it up with the Nazi stain which hate groups continue to embrace.

Considering the horrific stigma the Nazi mark has and how similar the symbols are, that is understandable. Things can get muddled further by the fact Japan was Germany’s ally during WWII.

The Buddhist Swastika Becomes Popular Slang In Japan(Image: Photozou)

[Image: Photozou]

Some in Japan were unhappy about this decision. “We have been using this symbol for thousands of years before it was incorporated into the Nazi flag, so I believe it would be better for us to keep it on our maps and ask others to understand its true meaning,” Makoto Watanabe of Hokkaido Bunkyo University told The Telegraph.

Even if the map marker is removed, at some Buddhist temples, the manji is carved into the structures or gates.

The manji’s association with Buddhism is so strong in Japan that Call of Duty: Black Ops‘ publisher Square Enix removed swastikas from zombie mode, replacing them with iron crosses because Japanese players might confuse it with the Buddhist symbol, just as some visitors have been mixing up the temple markers with National Socialism. (Both groups could probably use a quick seminar on iconography!)

The Buddhist Swastika Becomes Popular Slang In Japan(Image: Twitter)

[Image: Twitter]

In the meantime, teens strike manji poses and draw the symbol all over sticker pictures, inadvertently reclaiming an ancient symbol, while being, presumably, remiss about what it means at home or even how it could be misconstrued abroad. This is a manji, after all.


    • What? It’s easy as westerners to look at it, with the horrible connotations the appropriated version had, however the original version had no such meaning. The Nazi parties adopted version was inverted as you can see, and turned into a bastardised version of its original intent. It’s no different to Africans and people of African descent ‘taking back’ the N word for example. Given the swastikas origin and original use as an ancient religious icon used in the Indian subcontinent, East Asia and Southeast Asia, it’s only appropriate that the cultures that originally utilised it end up ‘taking it back’ at some point and removing the evil stigma associated with it.

      • I am not judging them based on their culture or at least not in the straightforward way. More like laughing at how the country so innocently using a modified version of something from the wests horrible past is just so… Japan.

        • But its the other way around. The west used a modified version of somethijg from *their* history.

          • It is not Japan’s, a lot of countries in Asia used it before them and even then; do you believe that the Nazis, a white supremacist group would have intentionally taken culture from a region that they would have looked down on?

          • I think you might need to do some more research – Hitler believed that the “Aryans” originated from that region, and many of his party such as Himmler and Hess were heavily into supernatural and occult – they appropriated many thing from other religions.
            The Nazi party had ties to Tibet and Nepal, in fact Hitler even gifted the Nepalese king a car once.

          • I’m sorry, you’re incorrect. You need to research Hitler’s actual beliefs more so. He wasn’t against every single other culture in the world, he was actually proud of certain races that managed, in his views, ‘to keep themselves pure’ (a twisted belief if ever there was one).

            Hitler said of the Chinese and the Japanese, and this is an actual quote:

            I have never regarded the Chinese or the Japanese as being inferior to ourselves. They belong to ancient civilizations, and I admit freely that their past history is superior to our own. They have the right to be proud of their past, just as we have the right to be proud of the civilization to which we belong. Indeed, I believe the more steadfast the Chinese and the Japanese remain in their pride of race, the easier I shall find it to get on with them.

            He actually supported the Japanese at the turn of the 20th century, and kept them in mind all the way through to the point of WW2 where he saw them as allies.

            In terms of the Swastika itself, or the bastardised version:

            The Mongol invasions of China in the 13th and 14th centuries saw many Chinese monks immigrating to Japan, it was around this period of time that Buddhism was introduced there, the Swastika itself, the correct version, has been found there in various forms. In Buddhism, the swastika is said to represent Buddha’s footprints. However, generally Buddhists use what we think is the ‘reversed’ version (where it points left) thanks to our westernised view, the Sauvistika.

            In Hinduism as well, the different directions of the Swastika/Sauvistika, as they were named, paired up to portray opposites such as light and darkness. It was their version of ‘yin/yang’ basically.

            Ancient Mesopotamians even engraved them on some of their coins, and the Native Navajo nation in Northern America wove this image into their blankets. This image has even been found on ancient pottery as far away as Africa, which shows that it’s spread quite a distance in its time on this earth. Sometimes used singularly, it’s usually used in a repeated pattern, quite often interlocking in a pattern.

            What I’m getting at here, is I’m well aware it’s been around a long, long time, there’s no actual confirmation on who ‘created’ it, just the fact it’s popped up in various civilisations in many forms. What is known however, is the Germans appropriated it for nefarious means, used it in an evil manner, and now a society that did use it for peaceful means is ‘taking it back’ and using it in a proper way. We shouldn’t fear a symbol, we should fear the intent behind a symbol, and if their intent is good and pure, hell, let them go for it. Take the damn thing back and make it theirs, and others in the regions again.

            Also, if you feel a little educated, I do this for a living 😛

          • The Swastika predates Buddhism, Egyptians used it and there are relics from even the Sumerians. The Nazi’s obviously took it for themselves, but it still predates Buddhism.

      • The N word as you put it is protoindoeuropean in origin…nebh-gher (cloud-to caw like a crow) so five thousand years of meaning aint gonna be washed away by a ten minute civilization. The buddist swastika is shaman in origin and dates back twenty thousand years before they dispersed across the world to the Americas. So if you want to put it to a court of law, who cares what happened between two people who appropriated the cultural heritage of peoples who could pee on every wannabe civilization in the last two thousand years.

        • It’s debatable where the N word originated, there’s no one clear origin for it but I have never in my life heard of that particular origin. Honestly I would get into a discussion on the origin of the word, but I don’t want to trigger a few people here and end up moderated lol despite both our best intentions 🙂 It’s always fascinating to discuss the actual etymology of words, especially when you’re an English/History teacher.

          • Basically they were paranoid as hell about the ‘uncountable hordes’ of dark skinned people devouring their ‘civilization’. Its also first and last time counting uncountable numbers in clouds will be used until the last century…setting back maths development 5000 years.

  • I couldn’t say whether the way the girls are using the symbol is meaningful or not, but I understand the reasoning behind not letting Nazi Germany taint out of existence a Buddhist symbol that’s been in constant use for thousands of years. Context matters, the same way we separate the Egyptian goddess Isis from the terrorist group.

    • Totally agree!
      I’ve had so many western students learning Japanese utterly confused with the symbol.
      I’m glad this brings it to the front of media attention, but It does need to be stated loud and clear:
      1. Buddhist’s had it first.
      2. It isn’t a ‘Swastika’, as that symbol is inverted.

      On a side note, If you are a school teacher WW2 and the rise to power of one evil man who used many cultural symbols and architectures to create a feeling of power is something you should share with your students, least you are doomed to repeat it.

  • not like this is some sudden thing anyway. it’s always been apart of the culture. most people just don’t look past their own country and popular knowledge of other countries to bother noticing this sort of thing.

  • Technically Japanese youth are misappropriating the symbol too. My wife comes from a staunch Buddhist family and having a symbol of peace and mercy used to mean “strong” and “high class” would also be upsetting for them.

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