Japanese women want scarred, disease-riddled, brutal men of history?

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    As you may have seen from previous posts on this blog, the popularity of history-related products and tours has been rising in Japan lately due to female fans of period dramas and samurai video games. Some in the Japanese media have portrayed the trend as a response to the ever-lessening manliness of Japanese men.

    In a recent article for the Times, Richard Lloyd Parry interprets this trend as a sign that “Japanese ladies long for date with brutal men of history“:

    Masamune Date is not an obvious heart-throb for today’s young Japanese women. He has an aristocratic lineage and love of the arts — but he is also a one-eyed ruthless killer. He lost an eye to smallpox and in his relentless pursuit of power is said to have slaughtered his own brother, as well as Christian missionaries, Korean peasants and countless of his compatriots.

    The biggest turn-off might have been that Lord Date has been dead for 373 years, having flourished during the Azuchi-Momoyama Period.

    In fact, he enjoys a celebrity in today’s Japan that would be the envy of many actors or rock stars. Books, television dramas, films, animations, comics and video games examine his life — and he is only one of several celebrity medieval samurai in the limelight. Japan is in the throes of a feudal warlord boom whose heroes are not smooth-cheeked young men but scarred, disease-riddled, brutal warriors whose kind died out centuries ago.

    While I generally like his articles and appreciate his occasional readership of this blog, I cannot agree in the slightest with the message he is sending in both the article’s headline and the bolded sentence above.

    It would seem that Parry has overlooked one of the very obvious causes of this trend, something that few Japanese language media reports have ignored. This is a boom fueled by TV dramas and video games, none of which depict the samurai in question as scarred, disease-riddled or brutal.

    Date Masamune’s new female fanbase has been linked to the extremely popular Sengoku Basara video games, in which he looks like this:

    date masamune

    When young women declare their love for Date Masamune, most are fantasizing about a smooth-cheeked young man from a fantasy video game. It may be amusing to point out that the real Date Masamune was a brutal man, but it is just plain silly not to mention that this boom has little or nothing to do with who he really was and what he really looked like.

    [hat tip to Ponta]

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