World Facts

What Do the Colors and Symbols of the National Flag of Japan Mean?

A white rectangular flag with a central red disc represents the flag of Japan.

What Does the National Flag of Japan Look Like?

The national flag of Japan is officially named the Nisshoki, which means the sun-mark flag. This name refers to its appearance, which is a crimson circle set on a white background. A proper Japanese flag must have a height to length ratio of 2 to 3. Additionally, the circle must be placed precisely in the center of the white field and measure three-fifths of the length of the flag.

The largest Japanese flag on record is located in the Shimane Prefecture, where it flies outside of the Izumo Shrine. Its measurements are 44.6 feet by 29.5 feet and is hung at an elevation of 154 feet.

Meaning of the Colors and Symbols of the Flag of Japan

The Japanese flag represents the sun, which has important religious and mythological significance in the country. Local beliefs suggest that Amaterasu, the sun goddess, is a direct ancestor of the Emperors of Japan. This relation between the sun goddess and the Emperor give legitimacy to those in power. In fact, the Emperor is often referred to as the Son of the Sun, and the country is often referred to as the Land of the Rising Sun. According to historical accounts, the first sun-themed flag was used in 701 AD, during the reign of Emperor Monmu. The use of this sun symbolism has continued throughout the history of Japan. Emperor Go-Reizei is said to have given the Unpo-ji Temple a sun flag during the 1000s, and during the 1800s the Japanese Empire began utilizing this sun-motif on its naval and merchant ships.

The crimson red color of the symbolic sun is said to represent a prosperous future for Japan. The white background color symbolizes the purity, honesty, and integrity of the people of Japan.

Use of the National Flag of Japan

Previously, the citizens of Japan were required to display the national flag during holidays and other special celebrations, however, this has not been a requirement since the end of World War II. Additionally, the people here were once obligated to present the flag to the Emperor when he came near. The Japanese flag has long been used to invoke a nationalist and patriotic feeling. During World War II, for example, family and friends of military members would sign a flag and present it to soldiers before deployment. This tradition is still carried out today, but for athletes prior to important games. Most flags displayed in Japan can now be found on the outside of government buildings. Some individuals choose to display the flag during holidays and other celebrations.

Attitude Toward the Japanese Flag

For some people, the flag represents imperialism and the suppression of democracy. It is a reminder of the abuses suffered at the hands of the Japanese during the height of the Japanese Empire and its unwanted occupation in several territories, including China and South Korea. Additionally, the Japanese flag has often been associated with violent political activism, causing many Japanese citizens to refuse to display it in their homes. Many individuals have even protested displaying this flag by refusing to acknowledge it in public places, burning it, and tearing it down. In many countries, burning the national flag is illegal, however, this is not the case in Japan. The only flags protected against damage or burning in the country are foreign flags.

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