Which (Japanese) flag is it anyway?

As it is in any global crisis, there are always rumours and misconceptions and misinformed ideas circulating around the world. What with the power of internet and social media channels, it’s too easy to fall victim to ideas such as “consumption of salt can prevent radio-active waves”. The said idea has triggered a massive craze in buying salt in South East China (see a report here)

Being Chinese and coming from a family whose relatives had suffered, first hand, in Sino-Japanese conflict such as the infamous rape of Nanking (or the Nanking Massacre, c. 1937), as much as I love Japan’s culture and appreciate it as a country, I often wince at the image of seeing Japanese people waving their national flag declaring sovereignty over lost battles and decided to put history in the dark (say, the one which took place in Nanking).

That’s another discussion altogether. When the earthequake and tsunami hit Japan, the first thing that came to my mind after seeing all the images and news coverage was: JAPAN IS SUCH AN AMAZING COUNTRY.

You see people lining up, helping one another, the young supporting the old and ailing, the middle agers staying calm. At least according to the images, this a a people whose country has just suffered tremendous loss but remained calm, strong, courteous, and brave. I can’t even imagine this happening in China- I can already see those fake-ass communists fleeing their country with their WIVES and children in tow.

That’s a bit of a side note, but my point is actually regarding something else. Recently I’ve seen that lots of people on facebook or twitter have been adding “buttons” to their profile image in solidarity and support of Japan. However, I wonder how many of these people can actually tell the difference between the two flags below:

Whose flag is it anyway?

The flag on the left is the Imperial Japanese flag. The one on the right is the modern day Japanese flag.

While showing support to the country is GREAT, and I will also do so – and hopefully without presenting myself as judging anyone- keep in mind that the image of the Imperial Japanese flag is a painful image for many countries, in particular East Asian ones. It is the symbolic representation of the over-riding nationalism, torture, pain, warfare and violence which Japan imposed on the continent back in WWII.

As said earlier, my opinion is that we must stay informed at all times. Don’t subject yourself to any visual representation seen on the net as it is. Research the meaning behind, be in the know.

And in the mean time, GO JAPAN GO!


About ritapang

Twenty-something waiting for the next big thing. While waiting for money to grow on trees, I consume coffee/tea/alcoholic beverages, complain about the weather, blog about travel or think about travelling, talk about food and stare at good-looking men.
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7 Responses to Which (Japanese) flag is it anyway?

  1. Ambrose says:

    Yes, I agree about the flag.

    And yes, the orderliness amid Japan’s tragedies never ceases to amaze me too. People have been saying this shows they have good education. But two weeks ago (I think) I heard a different opinion: They have hope, hope that their problems will be taken care of no matter what. I think this is something to ponder about.

  2. Shanti says:

    I agree with you. Great clarification about the flags. I wish more people here in China shared your objective sentiment. My grandparents fled a massacre by Japanese soldiers towards Filipinos in WWII, and survived. The accounts are horrific. But, that was a dark time and I believe we must all try to move forward and not hold grudges from one generation to the next. How else will the world become a better place if while we continue to remember, we don’t let go?

  3. Kevin says:

    I have some education about Japan and WW2 and I find myself just as drawn to the conflict that ended with a Japanese victory over Russia in 1905. Hirohito was about 4 or 5 years old then and the United States mediated a very weak treaty between Japan and Russia with Japan on the losing end. Now at the end of ww2 the United States NUKES Nagasaki and Hiroshima and then Russia gets the atom bomb. I always found that kind of weird.

    Not knowing the difference between the two flags, which is why I’m here, to learn, I saw both flags and the comparison that came to mind was the flag now shows Japan as having her wings clipped. That’s just a first impression without an education. I thank you for the learning experience. I see why the difference matters.

    • ritapang says:

      Wow, I’m probably the worst blogger out there, replying to posts submitted more than 6 months past.

      The whole issue of iconography vs. history is one that is often missed; and with the power of internet we are often fed a series of images and texts which can easily sway us into thinking that that’s the plain ol’ truth.

      What bothered me the most the other day is that I saw a photo on a local paper of the Japanese Navy in the South China Sea, openly brandishing the Imperial flag. Definitely a “hmm” right there.

      Thanks for stopping by, Kevin!

  4. Phil Hartman says:

    I’ve been living in South Korea for the past seven years and I have to deal with Japanese hatred on a daily basis. While it is clearly true that atrocities were committed during WW2, the unquestionable hatred the Koreans have for the Japanese in general is ignorant in its own right. Pitting one country against another will always be an exercise in futility. I often ask my students, how can you hate 120 million people you never met? Countries aren’t simple, clean boxes. You will find good, evil, ignorance, and apathy in all countries. It’s so good that you aren’t letting yourself be caught up in the herd-mentality. You see that Japan can be many things simultaneously.

    P.S. Not stalking you, just googled your name and bam! Here I am.

  5. shinden9 says:

    On your ‘clarification’ of the flags:

    The left one is the Japanese Naval Flag, which was, has been, and is currently the flag of the Japanese Navy (Maritime Self Defense Force), since the 1870s. It is also incredibly common in Japanese cultural imagery, and has been the symbol of several Japanese clans.

    The right one is the Hinomaru. It is nearly 1000 years old, and was designed by Nichiren, a Buddhist priest. It became the national flag in 1868, and was re-designed slightly in 1999. It has, or all intents and purposes, always been the flag of Japan.

    Neither of these symbols have anything to do with politics. The rising sun flag was never the national flag. It was never the symbol of a political faction or movement. Both flags are Japanese symbols, and have been for over 140 years.

    Should the American flag be censored or never shown because of the Vietnam war, because of the atomic bombings, etc? Should it never be flown because racists also use the American flag in their heinous protests?

    Anyone can and has the god given right to be offended by any flag. But that’s no reason to try to make others offended for no reason.

    • ritapang says:

      Thank you for visiting the blog. I am actually surprised to see that despite the fact that this post was from a few years back, I still get regular flow to the post and almost everyone who wanted to leave a comment has something interesting to offer. I thank you for pointing out the history behind the two flags.

      However, your comment made me spit out my coffee laughing when you said that the rising sun flag (i.e. NOT the current national flag in use) has NO political connotations. Furthermore, that my post here is to incite offense in others. You seem to be completely oblibious, or chose to be oblivious, to the use, display and the connotation behind the rising sun flag during the second world war, the atrocities the Japanese army has committed while raising that flag during those years in East Asia, as well as a recent resurgence of the use of the flag and the related PR sparring that’s been going on between the Chinese and the Japanese government on a very public scale.

      A number of varying political reasons will always associated to every single flag, but of course every one is free to interpret it as they so choose. I have nothing against the current flag. The rising sun flag, however, for victims of Japan’s atrocities in WWII, is nothing less than the swastika of the Nazi. It is frequently associated to ultranationalism. For Okinawans, this particular flag represents the events of WWII, and the start of the U.S. army presence in the area (and subsequent problems with that military presence). When the Japanese army embarked on their journey (during WWII), the rising sun flag is bestowed upon them by the Emperor of Japan. It is representative of the united spirit of the army, as well as a symbol of the Emperor’s godliness. Put a world war at the backdrop of all of this, and tell me that none of this has to do with politics.

      Words like “comfort women”, “rape of Nanking” etc were all committed by the Japanese army while marching into town under the rising sun flag. There are very few living victims these days but if you manage to get access to some of their interview material, do a bit more research, I think you’ll see what I mean.

      If anything, the reason for the offense/argument which ensues whenever this topic of the rising sun flag coming up is ENTIRELY political. In comparison to Germany who publicly acknowledged its wrongdoings, Germany had a change of government – Weimar Republic was ousted by a Fascist totalitarian state, then replaced by a democratic Republic – change of views, or rather, the way they chose to face this all is likely to be different from one regime to the other. Japan, however, went from “Emperor>everybody” into a parliamentary democracy throughout the war, and stayed that way. Governance has been largely consistent over the years, and surely you’ll agree with me that most long-running regimes don’t differ in their own views much, unless it works in their favor.

      The UK, U.S., Russia etc has their own demons and their flags are associated to some very horrific things. No one will expect them to apologize. I don’t expect Japan to apologize. Who am I anyway, right? I do, however, expect myself to make an informed opinion, and back in 2011 when I saw the widespread of the image of the rising sun flag, this is what I had to say, after hearing about the history of the flag from my own family (my grandmother herself recalled the flight from the Japanese occupying army). I likewise expect commentators to do full research to back up their claims. To call me trying to offend someone “for no reason” – well, the above is my reason, though you jest for saying that I “try to offend” – I simply had something to say, and unfortunately, I offended you, that is all.

      Thank you, once again, for visiting this blog.

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