I share an apartment with five Japanese people – two girls and three guys – and on Sunday night I walked into our kitchen to discover one of the girls recharging her power stone. The stone was pink and smooth, some kind of quartz or something. She said she bought it in Peru. Recharging it involved sitting next to our stove, which is ventilated by a hood, and holding a smoking piece of white sage under the rock. “It stinks!” she yelled 10 minutes later before walking back into her room. “It smells like medicine!”
My other female roommate once went to a fortune teller. She said it cost ¥15,000 for an hour and a half, during which time she could ask anything. She collected business cards from her friends at work and brought them along, generously offering to use some of her time to ask about their future. “She told me this girl was going to have a lot of problems,” she told me in a low voice, holding one of the business cards in her hand.
“So what are you going to tell her?” I asked.
“I’ll make something up. Something nice.”
As the success of “Twilight” and “Harry Potter” have proved, the supernatural is a big hit with just about everyone, especially girls. In Japan, the recent tendency to classify girl-fashion trends has merged the natural and supernatural into “Witch Girls.”
As previously covered on Pulse, the “Forest Girl” phenomenon started in 2009 on Mixi as a group of girls who favor simple bangs, frilly layered clothing and flats. The movement was covered by magazines like Spoon, Fudge and Spur. This later gave birth to “Swamp Girls,” basically nihilistic Forest Girls who disavow any conscious fashion choices for their similar clothing selection, and also “Mountain Girls,” girls who love outdoor clothing brands.
“Witch Girls” (魔女ガール, Majo Gaaru), on the other hand, started in MISTY, a magazine about fortune telling. The February 2010 issue featured a section titled “Neo-Witchery 101” (ネオ魔女入門, Neo-majo Nyūmon). While the television show “Sukkiri!!” filmed a segment on the issue on Feb. 3, the Witch Girl movement didn’t hit critical mass until the goo search portal wrote a keyword column about the girls on March 25 titled “The next evolutionary step from Forest Girls? All about Witch Girls.” As people read the column, “Witch Girls” jumped up the Google keyword rankings, and membership in Mixi groups devoted to Witch Girls doubled in number from 400 to over 1,000 on Thursday night.
The column provides a breakdown of the TV segment, a summary of which is also on Nihon Terebi’s site. Witch Girls, according to the show, are girls that “love nature and go even deeper into the heart of the forest than Forest Girls.” The show interviewed René Van Dale Watanabe, a fortune teller who runs the “Super Natural Institute,” and he said that witchery is “the study of freeing your own mind and becoming one with nature.”
As was the case with Swamp Girls, a Mixi community group (one of two) provides a breakdown of all things Witch Girls:
- We want to learn about nature.
- We love fortune telling.
- We’re cute but also poisonous.
- We are Witch Girls who live in the forest!
While Forest, Swamp and Mountain Girls were all centered on the visual style, the goo keyword column, partially supported by the interests above, claims that Witch Girls are more interested in internal aspects. Someone forgot to tell the new Witch Girl recruits, as one of the recent topics on the mixi community was “Witch Girl Brands,” in which a witch says:
it would be great
if you could tell me
what kind of Witch Girl
brand clothing you wear.
The amount of Forest Girl clothing
so let’s make Witch Girls
real popular, too!
Whether or not companies will be able to turn Witch Girls into a marketable subculture remains to be seen, but clearly many of the elements – fortune telling, horoscopes, an interest in nature, witch icons like characters from the Miyazaki Hayao movie “Kiki’s Delivery” service, power stones, etc. – were already in place and the Witch Girls phenomenon merely put a name to them.