卍 : Trending Japanese Slang

 

This symbol has been popular with JK  (Joshi Kosei, or female high school students)  in the recent weeks. Let’s find out what it means to them.

 

High School Girls Love Swastikas????

 

A lot of Westerners might be upset seeing this symbol. They identify it as the Nazi swastika, which you can see on the left below this eagle. But please take a closer look. Compare it with the symbol below.

Notice anything different?

That’s right! The angle is different, and the image is flipped. The reason is that the Nazis appropriated this symbol for their own use, so they changed it a bit to differentiate it from its previous usage.

This symbol is called a manji in Japanese. The symbol “comes from Sanskrit, and is used in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism…[and] has to do with well-being, good luck and good health. It has a very long history in Japanese Buddhism, and even if it’s off tourist maps, it’s still found all over the country.

(A Japanese Temple)

 

Maji Manji: What do you mean???

In a similar way, JK are appropriating this Buddhist symbol for their own communication needs. “Maji” means “serious”, and is usually used in the same way that we say “Seriously????” (imagine the intonation of a teenage girl when you read this word).

I first heard about this slang from my high school first year (U.S. sophomore) students. Students are using the phrase “Maji Manji” or sometimes just the Manji symbol itself, but they can’t really explain it well. They said, “It doesn’t translate. It’s a feeling.” What they told me corresponds with the information found in this article. My students told me they use it because it’s quick, convenient, and flexible, so they can easily respond with 卍 when they are in a hurry. It is often used to express the feeling of “Seriously???”, likely because of its similarity to “Maji”. However, it can have other meanings depending on the context. It still seems to be mysterious even among its users, and it’s all up to the situation and relationship between the users to determine how it is interpreted.