Rising Sun Flag

The Rising Sun Flag (旭日, Kyokujitsu-ki) was originally used by feudal warlords in Japan during the Edo period (1603–1868 CE).[1] On May 15, 1870, as a policy of the Meiji government, it was adopted as the war flag of the Imperial Japanese Army, and on October 7, 1889, it was adopted as the naval ensign of the Imperial Japanese Navy.[2] It is still used in Japan as a symbol of tradition and good fortune, and is incorporated into commercial products and advertisements. The flag is currently flown by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and a modified version is flown by the Japan Self-Defense Forces and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force.

History and design

The flag of Japan and the rising sun had symbolic meaning since the early 7th century in the Asuka period (538–710 CE). The Japanese archipelago is east of the Asian mainland, and is thus where the sun "rises". In 607 CE, an official correspondence that began with "from the Emperor of the rising sun" was sent to Chinese Emperor Yang of Sui.[3] Japan is often referred to as "the land of the rising sun".[4] In the 12th-century work, The Tale of the Heike, it was written that different samurai carried drawings of the sun on their fans.[5]

A well-known variant of the flag of Japan sun disc design is the sun disc with 16 red rays in a Siemens star formation. The Rising Sun Flag (旭日, Kyokujitsu-ki) has been used as a traditional national symbol of Japan since the Edo period (1603 CE).[1] It is featured in antique artwork such as ukiyo-e prints through history. Such as the "Lucky Gods' visit to Enoshima", ukiyo-e print by Utagawa Yoshiiku in 1869 and "One Hundred Views of Osaka, Three Great Bridges", ukiyo-e print by Utagawa Kunikazu in 1854. The Fujiyama Tea Co. used it as a wooden box label of Japanese tea (green tea) for export in the Meiji period / Taisho period (1880s).[6]

The Japanese word for Japan is 日本, which is pronounced Nihon or Nippon and literally means "the origin of the sun". The character nichi () means "sun" or "day"; hon () means "base" or "origin".[7] The compound therefore means "origin of the sun" and is the source of the popular Western epithet "Land of the Rising Sun".[8] The red disc symbolizes the sun and the red lines are light rays shining from the rising sun.

It was historically used by the daimyō (大名) and Japan's military, particularly the Imperial Japanese Army and the Imperial Japanese Navy. The ensign, known in Japanese as the Jyūrokujō-Kyokujitsu-ki (十六条旭日旗), was first adopted as the war flag on May 15, 1870, and was used until the end of World War II in 1945. It was re-adopted on June 30, 1954, and is now used by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF). The Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) use a variation of the Rising Sun Flag with red, white and gold colors.[9]

The design is similar to the flag of Japan, which has a red circle in the center signifying the sun. The difference compared to the flag of Japan is that the Rising Sun Flag has extra sun rays (16 for the ensign) exemplifying the name of Japan as "The Land of the Rising Sun". The Imperial Japanese Army first adopted the Rising Sun Flag in 1870.[10] The Imperial Japanese Army and the Imperial Japanese Navy both had a version of the flag; the naval ensign was off-set, with the red sun closer to the lanyard side, while the army's version (which was part of the regimental colors) was centered. The flag was used until Japan's surrender in World War II during August 1945. After the establishment of the Japan Self-Defense Forces in 1954, the flag was re-adopted and approved by the GHQ/SCAP. The flag with 16 rays is today the ensign of the Maritime Self-Defense Force while the Ground Self-Defense Force uses an 8-ray version.[11]

Present day use

Commercially the Rising Sun Flag is used on many products, designs, clothing, posters, beer cans (Asahi Breweries), newspapers (Asahi Shimbun), bands, manga, comics, anime, movies, video games (e.g., E. Honda's stage of Street Fighter II), etc.[12] The Rising Sun Flag appears on commercial product labels, such as on the cans of one variety of Asahi Breweries lager beer.[12] The design is also incorporated into the logo of the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun. Among fishermen, the tairyō-ki (大漁旗, "Good Catch Flag") represents their hope for a good catch of fish. Today it is used as a decorative flag on vessels as well as for festivals and events. The Rising Sun Flag is used at sporting events by the supporters of Japanese teams and individual athletes as well as by non-Japanese.[13]

The Rising Sun Flag is the war flag and naval ensign of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) since June 30, 1954. JSDF Chief of Staff Katsutoshi Kawano said the Rising Sun Flag is the Maritime Self-Defense Force sailors' "pride".[14] The Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force use the Rising Sun Flag with eight red rays extending outward, called Hachijō-Kyokujitsuki (八条旭日旗). A gold border lies partially around the edge.[9]

The flag is also used by non-Japanese, for example, in the emblems of some U.S. military units based in Japan, and by the American blues rock band Hot Tuna, on the cover of its album Live in Japan. It is used as an emblem of the United States Fleet Activities Sasebo, as a patch of the Strike Fighter Squadron 94, a mural at Misawa Air Base, the former insignia of Strike Fighter Squadron 192 and Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System with patches of the 14th Fighter Squadron. Some extreme right-wing groups display it at political protests.[15]

Criticism of usage

Due to the flag being used by the Imperial Japanese military and Japan's actions during World War II, it is offensive in East Asia, particularly in South Korea,[16][17][18] which was formerly ruled under Japan, and China.[19][20] Some World War II veteran groups in the United States have also campaigned against its use.[21] The symbol is associated with Japanese imperialism in the early 20th century[16][17][18][19][22][23][24] because of its use by Japan's military forces during that period.

South Korea hosted a navy fleet review at Jeju Island on October 10 to 14, 2018. South Korea requested all participating countries to display only their national flags and the South Korean flag on their vessels. Japan balked at the demand, with the then-Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, since replaced, claiming the display of the Rising Sun Flag should be mandatory under Japanese law. South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha urged Japan to be more considerate about Japan's former rule of the Korean Peninsula and stated that her ministry will review "possible and appropriate options" before deciding to take stronger international actions when asked whether South Korea could raise the issue with the United Nations.[25] Japan announced on October 5, 2018, that it will be withdrawing from the fleet review because it could not accept Seoul's request to remove the Rising Sun Flag. Defense Minister notified the South Korean government of its decision. Both nations reiterated the need for continued defense cooperation.[26] When the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) was established in 1954, it adopted the Rising Sun Flag (Kyokujitsu-ki) as its ensign to show the nationality of its ships. It was approved by GHQ/SCAP. On 28 September 2018 an official of Japan's Ministry of Defense said that the South Korean navy's request lacks common sense and that they would not partake in a fleet review, since no country would follow such a request.[27] On October 6, 2018, JSDF Chief of Staff Katsutoshi Kawano said the Rising Sun Flag is the Maritime Self-Defense Force sailors' "pride" and that the JMSDF would absolutely not go if they had to remove the flag.[14][28]

South Korea did not object to Japan's adoption of the Rising Sun Flag for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force in 1952, nor to the entry into South Korean ports Japanese warships flying the flag on a warship at the 1998 and 2008 navy fleet review held in South Korea.[29] Negative South Korean campaigning against the Rising Sun Flag began in 2011 when a South Korean footballer Ki Sung-yueng was accused of making a racist gesture, which he defended claiming he was annoyed at having seen a Rising Sun Flag in the stadium.[30] In 2012, South Koreans who disapproved of the flag began to refer to it as a "war crime flag".[31][32] An analysis indicates that South Korean reactions to the Rising Sun Flag stem from a complicated mixture of emotional, excessive nationalism, and a nationalistic complex towards Japan.[33]

The Sankei Shimbun criticized South Korea's attitude toward the Rising Sun Flag, since even the South Korean ally the United States, who was Japan's opponent during World War II, has not protested formally against the Rising Sun Flag.[34][35] The president of Sankei Shimbun Minagawa Hoshi said the corporate logo flag of the Rising Sun Flag design of the Asahi Shimbun, which is praised for being conscientious in South Korea,[36] never had any such issues.[37]

In response to some allegations in South Korea that the Rising Sun Flag is the same as the Nazi flag of Germany, the reporter Kisaragi Hayato of Searchina explained the origin of the Rising Sun Flag is the Sun and thus different. Furthermore, if South Korea insists that national symbols that Japan used to invade neighboring countries (in the past) should not be used at all, then South Korea should also send objections to the use of for example the British flag and the tricolor French flag (Drapeau français), because these were traditionally used by the European countries during European colonialism, the first wave of European colonization (1415 to 1830 CE) and New Imperialism (late 19th and early 20th centuries).[38][39]

The South Korean parliamentary committee for sports asked the organizers of 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo to ban the Rising Sun flag. According to Korean lawmaker An Min-suk, it could not be a peace Olymics with the flag in the stadium. The organizers refused to ban the flag from venues.[40][41] In September 2019, the Chinese Civil Association for Claiming Compensation from Japan sent a letter to the International Olympic Committee in order to ban the flag.[42]

Examples of the Rising Sun design in use




Japan Self-Defense Forces

United States military

See also


  1. "Japanese Symbols". Japan Visitor/Japan Tourist Info. Retrieved October 9, 2014.
  2. "船舶旗について" (PDF). Kobe University Repository:Kernel. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  3. Dyer 1909, p. 24
  4. Edgington 2003, pp. 123–124
  5. Itoh 2003, p. 205
  6. Designer Idezaka (September 9, 2013). 浮世絵と西洋の出合い 戦前の輸出茶ラベルの魅力 [Ukiyo-e and Western encounter The charm of the exported tea label before the war]. Nikkei Style (in Japanese). Archived from the original on 2018-10-04. Retrieved October 4, 2018.
  7. "Where does the name Japan come from?". Retrieved January 29, 2017.
  8. Piggott, Joan R. (1997). The emergence of Japanese kingship. Stanford University Press. pp. 143–144. ISBN 978-0-8047-2832-4.
  9. Government of Japan. 自衛隊法施行令 [Self-Defense Forces Law Enforcement Order]; 1954-06-30 [Retrieved 2008-01-25]. (in Japanese).
  10. "海軍旗の由来". kwn.ne.jp. Retrieved 6 October 2011.
  11. Phil Nelson; various. "Japanese military flags". Flags Of The World. Flagspot.
  12. "Asahi Beer New Design". Japan Visitor Blog. December 12, 2011.
  13. "A great decade for Japan". FIFATV. 2012-12-18.
  14. "Japan to skip S. Korea fleet event over 'rising sun' flag". The Asahi Shimbun. October 6, 2018. Archived from the original on 2018-10-06. Retrieved October 7, 2018.
  15. "World: Asia-Pacific Reprise for Japan's anthem". BBC News. August 15, 1999.
  16. Radhika Seth (August 14, 2012). "Courting Controversy: Olympic Uniform resembled rising sun flag!". Japan Daily Press. Archived from the original on 2012-08-17. Retrieved September 18, 2012.
  17. "Korean lawmakers adopt resolution calling on Japan not to use rising sun flag". Korea Herald. August 29, 2012. Retrieved September 18, 2012.
  18. "Japanese "Rising Sun Flag" Sparking More Tension between Korea and Japan". Business Korea. August 9, 2013.
  19. Naoto Okamura (August 8, 2008). "Japan fans warned not to fly naval flag". Reuters.
  20. Taylor, Adam (2015-06-27). "Japan has a flag problem, too". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2017-10-06.
  21. "US Vets". newsweek. ISSN 0190-8286.
  22. Bill McMichael (August 2, 2011). "That Flag". Navy Times Scoop Deck.
  23. Tom Hester (November 3, 2008). "Trenton's 'Lady Victory' monument honors W W II vets". NJ.com.
  24. Martin Kidston (April 26, 2014). "Hellgate High senior will escort WWII veterans on final Big Sky Honor Flight". Missoulian.
  25. "S. Korea renews call for Japan to remove 'rising sun' flag". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  26. "Japan withdraws from fleet review over flag spat with South Korea". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  27. Takeda, Hajimu (September 28, 2018). "S. Korea wants MSDF to lower 'kyokujitsuki' flag in review". The Asahi Shimbun. Archived from the original on 2018-10-05. Retrieved October 4, 2018.
  28. https://www.scmp.com/news/asia/east-asia/article/2167441/japan-pulls-out-south-korea-naval-drills-over-demands-it-remove
  29. "[특파원 칼럼] 대일외교, '감정'보다 '사실' 앞세워야" [Foreign diplomacy, Put forward "fact" rather than "emotion"]. Korea Economic Daily. October 12, 2018.
  30. "「旭日旗」問題の契機はサッカー・アジア杯 奥薗静岡県立大准教授" [Rising Sun Flag controversy began at an Asian Cup Football match - Associate Professor of the University of Shizuoka Okuzono]. Sankei Shimbun. October 5, 2018. Archived from the original on October 6, 2018.
  31. "[Why] 욱일기 때문에 불참통보한 일본군함, 우린 왜 지금 더 분노하나" [[Why] The Japanese warship conveyed an absence. Why are we angry now?]. The Chosun Ilbo. October 6, 2018. Archived from the original on October 6, 2018.
  32. "[팩트체크] 욱일기는 전범기? '전범기'는 없다" [[Fact check] Rising Sun Flag is war crime flag? There is no "war crime flag"]. News True or Fake. October 6, 2018. In the picture above, the word "war crime flag" was first used in Korea in August 2012.
  33. "햄버거 포장도 '욱일기 딱지'…도 넘는 반일정서" [Hamburger wrap "Rising sun flag" ... excessive anti-Japan sentiment]. Korea Economic Daily. June 6, 2017. 툭하면 터지는 욱일기 논란은 과도한 민족주의와 민족주의적 콤플렉스라는 복잡한 정서가 출발점이다 ... 늘 그렇듯 욱일기 논란도 일본에 대해 갖고 있는 일종의 콤플렉스 기제의 작동
  34. 韓国の反日から旭日旗の名誉を守れ (第三段 国際社会は受け入れ) 産経新聞 2013年8月3日
  35. "日本の艦艇、旭日旗を掲げて韓国に入港し物議=韓国ネット「...|". レコードチャイナ. Retrieved 2018-07-17.
  36. "日우파기자가 밝힌 우파들의 본심" [Real intention of the rightist revealed by a Japanese rightist reporter]. The Chosun Ilbo.
  37. 皆川豪志. "なぜ韓国人は、朝日の社旗に怒らないのか,繰り返されるマッチポンプ". iRONNA. 産経デジタル. Retrieved 2018-05-18.
  38. 韓国世論「旭日旗とナチス党旗を同一視」の大いなる誤解 サーチナ 2013年4月16日
  39. Compare: Louis, William Roger (2006). "32: Robinson and Gallagher and Their Critics". Ends of British Imperialism: The Scramble for Empire, Suez, and Decolonization. London: I.B.Tauris. p. 910. ISBN 9781845113476. Retrieved 2017-08-10. [...] the concept of the 'new imperialism' espoused by such diverse writers as John A. Hobson, V. I. Lenin, Leonard Woolf, Parker T, Moon, Robert L. Schuyler, and William L. Langer. Those students of imperialism, whatever their purpose in writing, all saw a fundamental difference between the imperialist impulses of the mid- and late-Victorian eras. Langer perhaps best summarized the importance of making the distinction of late-nineteenth-century imperialism when he wrote in 1935: '[...] this period will stand out as the crucial epoch during which the nations of the western world extended their political, economic and cultural influence over Africa and over large parts of Asia ... in the larger sense the story is more than the story of rivalry between European imperialisms; it is the story of European aggression and advance in the non-European parts of the world.'
  40. "'Symbol of the devil': Why South Korea wants Japan to ban the Rising Sun flag from the Tokyo Olympics". 2019-09-07.
  41. "Democratic Party lawmaker proposes resolution opposing Rising Sun Flag in Ntl. Assembly". 2019-10-02.
  42. "China group asks IOC to ban 'rising sun' flag at Tokyo Olympics". 2019-09-28.
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