Mostly recognized as a symbol of antisemitism and terror because of its association with Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party, the swastika is also an icon widely used in ancient religions in many parts of Asia to convey “mercy” or “good fortune.”
In modern Japan, where it is referred to as manji (written as 卍), the swastika has become popular among the youth, with schoolgirls often incorporating the symbol in selfies and photos posted on social media.
Voted as female Japanese teens’ favorite buzzword in 2016, manji became even more widely used in the present, prompting message service Line to include the term in a video that features schoolgirls’ notable catchphrases.
In its current usage, manji has come to mean a variety of things, according to Kotaku. For some, it is a catchphrase spoken while taking photos, like the word “cheese” in Western countries. There are also those who use it to describe a person with a playful or mischievous personality.
But others use the term to mean “to appear strong,” “high class,” or a pun on the Japanese word maji (まじ), which means “seriously” or “really.” As a symbol, it is also used to represent a person running, a punctuation mark or express “yay.”
It is important to note that the Japanese use the term haakenkuroitsu (ハーケンクロイツ) or hakenkreuz (German translation) for the Nazi swastika. Another distinction is that the Nazi swastika is commonly tilted (not always), while the Japanese Buddhism is always upright and can be right or left-facing (often in Buddhist temples).
But while the Japanese society has encountered nary a problem with the use of manji, the government decided to update the manji symbols found in maps and temples to be more tourist-friendly during the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics, reports Tofugu.
Regardless of how the Western world might misconstrue its use in modern Japan, it should be seen as a positive thing.
In a way, the resurgence in the manji’s popularity among Japanese youth can be seen as their way of reclaiming the ancient symbol, albeit inadvertently, from years of historical bastardization, of being equated to racial supremacy and intimidation.