Rising Sun Flag
The Rising Sun Flag (旭日旗 Kyokujitsu-ki) was originally used by feudal warlords in Japan during the Edo period (1603–1868 CE). 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. 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. Japan is often referred to as "the land of the rising sun". In the 12th-century work, The Tale of the Heike, it was written that different samurai carried drawings of the sun on their fans.
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 (旭日旗 Kyokujitsu-ki) has been used as a traditional national symbol of Japan since the Edo period (1603 CE). 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).
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 (日) means "sun" or "day"; hon (本) means "base" or "origin". The compound therefore means "origin of the sun" and is the source of the popular Western epithet "Land of the Rising Sun". 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.
The Rising Sun Flag has been used as a traditional national symbol of Japan since at least the Edo period (1603 CE). It has been used in many ukiyo-e prints through history. For example 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).
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. 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.
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 (e.g., Fantastic Four/Iron Man: Big in Japan, June 2006), anime, movies, video games (e.g., E. Honda's stage of Street Fighter II), etc. The Rising Sun Flag appears on commercial product labels, such as on the cans of one variety of Asahi Breweries lager beer. 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.
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". 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.
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.
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 Korea, which was formerly ruled under Japan, and China. WWII veteran groups in the United States have also campaigned against its use. The symbol is associated with Japanese imperialism in the early 20th century because of its use by Japan's military forces during that period.
The Republic of 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 flag of the Republic of Korea 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 controversial colonial 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.
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.
When the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force 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. 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 MSDF would absolutely not go if they had to remove the flag.
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 Korean port carrying the flag on a warship at the 1998 and 2008 navy fleet review held in Korea. Korean negative campaigns against the Rising Sun Flag began in 2011 when a Korean football player Ki Sung-yueng was accused of making a racial gesture, which he defended claiming he was annoyed at having seen a Rising Sun Flag in the stadium. The next year in 2012, a word "war crime flag" was coined in South Korea to spread bad image of the flag. An analysis indicates that Korean reactions to the Rising Sun Flag stem from the complicated emotion of excessive nationalism and nationalistic complex toward Japan.
The Sankei Shimbun criticized South Korea's attitude toward the Rising Sun Flag, since even the United States, who was Japan's opponent during World War II, has not protested formally against the Rising Sun Flag. 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 Korea, never had any such issues.
In response to some allegations in 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 Korea should also send objections to the use of for example the Union Jack which is the national flag of the United Kingdom and the tricolore Flag of France (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).
A Korean newspaper Maeil Business Newspaper raised a question that if Koreans accuse the Rising Sun Flag, why they are silent about the flags of China and North Korea which were opponents of the Korean War and killed hundreds of thousands of Korean people.
Examples of the Rising Sun design in use
One Hundred Views of Osaka, Three Great Bridges, ukiyo-e print by Utagawa Kunikazu, 1854. The composition of the morning sun rising behind the Nanhwa Three Bridge.
Tairyō-ki is a traditional Japanese fisherman's flag. Today it is used as a decorative flag on vessels and for festivals and events.
Flag of the Asahi Shimbun Company since 1889
Asahi Gold Beer
Asahi Beer poster. The Asahi logo is on the bottle label (in 2013, at a pub in Higashiosaka city).
Japan Self-Defense Forces
Viewing march by JGSDF regiment vehicle troops with the flag of the Japan Self-Defense Forces
Ground Self-Defense Force Utsunomiya gemstone site commemorative event with the Self-Defense Forces flag
Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force members of the crew of JDS Kongō
United States military
Emblem of United States Fleet Activities Sasebo
Patch of Strike Fighter Squadron 94
Emblem of U.S. Army Aviation Battalion Japan
The mural painted on a wall at Misawa Air Base, Japan
Former insignia of Strike Fighter Squadron 192
Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System with patches of the 14th Fighter Squadron
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- Flag of Japan
- List of Japanese flags
- List of Japanese municipal flags
- National symbols of Japan
- Imperial Seal of Japan
Other flags with sun rays
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