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Young women are flocking to significant landmarks from the Warring States period, and college girls are buying up samurai-themed products. Sales of historical books are up, and there have been efforts to revive the publication of paperbacks on warlords. Behind this craze is the surge in "reki-jo" or "history girls." But why now?
On weekends, Jidai Shobo, a bookstore specializing in historical books in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward, is packed with groups of young women. Most of the shop's customers were men when it first opened in February 2006, but by last year, half were women, of which around 90 percent are in their 20s and 30s.
Stationery and mobile phone accessories with family crests of feudal lords line the shelves, with figurines of Sanada Yukimura, the most popular of the warlords, and others also for sale. "I like Kato Kiyomasa," says customer Izumi Sekine, 34, of a warlord who served the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. "There's an almost picture-perfect masculinity about him."
In August 2008, the Kojuro Plaza opened in the city of Shiroishi in Miyagi Prefecture, home of Katakura Kojuro, a senior retainer of the 17th century warlord Date Masamune. Sales of Kojuro-related goods subsequently exceeded 100,000 yen on some days. Visitors to Shiroishi Castle during the week-long holiday in May jumped to 135 percent compared to the previous year, and most recent visitors have been young women, according to city officials. The tourist center in Ueda, Sanada Yukimura's hometown in Nagano Prefecture, has also enjoyed a jump in sales.
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