[From August Issue 2015]
Following on from “rekijo” – women who like history – in recent years there are more and more “touken joshi,” that is women interested in swords. There are many kinds of swords in Japan. It’s said that this trend was kick-started by a video game. The swords in the game take the form of attractive young men and many women became fans for this reason.
The Tokugawa Art Museum, in Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture, houses numerous famous swords. Up until now this museum used to mainly be visited by elderly men. But recently more and more women in their 20s and 30s are visiting the museum. “I think women have come to be fascinated by swords because they’ve entered pop culture through video games,” says YOSHIKAWA Yuki, a member of staff at the museum.
While swords are attractive artistic objects, besides their beauty, so-called famous swords also have historical tales behind them. For example, according to legend, “Katana Mei Muramasa” brought bad luck to the Tokugawa family; this sword has appeared in many games and novels and is popular nationwide. “The unique crest on the blade creates a mysterious mood and its charm draws you into its legend,” says Yoshikawa.
“I got into swords through video games and have discovered the charms of actual swords,” says NAKANE Tomoko, a sword fan. Nakane travels by night bus to visit museums all over Japan and see their swords. Sometimes she goes to the same museum three days in a row.
Besides their aesthetic charms, there are other ways to enjoy swords. As well as giving Skype-based “Samurai Experience Lessons” to American children, “Sousaku Kenbu Tachibana Ittouryu” runs “Samurai Training Tokyo,” a samurai workshop for foreigners visiting Japan.
“Sword Exercise” got started in 2008. Created by producer TAKAFUJI Ukon its key characteristic is that it gets you in shape through kenjutsu (swordsmanship) forms. Its popularity lies in the fact that in contrast to exercises that concentrate on developing muscles, it’s an easy to perform full body aerobic workout.
“I feel that the number people interested in swords has increased considerably,” says TSUNODA Tomohiro, the manager of Sword Exercise. While there has always been a high demand from men and from foreigners interested in swords for experience-based lessons, the number of female participants has increased tenfold since the start of the craze for swords amongst women.
The craze continues to spread as special displays in bookshops to sell new books on swords are set up and replicas of swords sell out. Who knows, perhaps more people will fall in love with swords in the future.