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5 fun facts about the flag of Japan

30 Comments
By Michelle Lynn Dinh

You’ve seen it flying high above government buildings and waved wildly during the Olympics, but how well do you actually know the Japanese flag? Let’s take a look at five facts about that familiar dotted flag.

1) The official name of the flag of Japan is 日章旗 ("nisshoki," meaning “sun-mark flag”), but most people just call it 日の丸 ("hinomaru," meaning “circle of the sun”). As you may have guessed, the red circle in the middle of the flag represents the sun.

2) The first documented use of the flag of Japan was in 701, as mentioned in the "Shoku Nihongi," a classical Japanese history text, which credited Emperor Mommu with the flag’s use. However, the flag wasn’t officially adopted by the Japanese government until 1999 after the signing of the Law Regarding the National Flag and National Anthem.

3) The dimensions of the national flag are extremely specific. The length and height must be at a ratio of 3 to 2 and the red circle must be exactly centered and 3/5 the width of the flag.

4) The flag of Japan isn’t white and red, it’s white and crimson.

5) The largest national flag in Japan is located at Izumo Shrine in Shimane Prefecture. It measures 9 meters x 13.6 meters and is 47 meters in the air. It weighs an impressive 49 kilograms.

Although no longer officially used by the government of Japan because of its militaristic and imperialistic connotations, the Rising Sun Flag was adopted as the national flag in 1870. However, the flag continues to be used on commercial packaging and by the Japan Self-Defense Force, but is considered offensive to countries with strong anti-Japanese sentiment, especially China and South Korea.

Source: Naver Matome

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30 Comments
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Nice flag, keeping it simple since 701 a.d.

11 ( +16 / -5 )

However, the flag wasn’t officially adopted by the Japanese government until 1999 after the signing of the Law Regarding the National Flag and National Anthem.

Wow!

1 ( +3 / -2 )

"the red circle in the middle of the flag represents the sun."

Actually it represents the rising sun. That's why it's red. If it were merely the sun in the sky, it would be yellowish white.

-5 ( +7 / -12 )

"the red circle in the middle of the flag represents the sun."

Actually it represents the rising sun. That's why it's red. If it were merely the sun in the sky, it would be yellowish white.

a rising sun is still a sun though.

6 ( +11 / -5 )

but is considered offensive to countries with strong anti-Japanese sentiment

a bit simplistic, no?

2 ( +7 / -5 )

"Although no longer officially used by the government of Japan ... However, the [rising sun] flag (十六条旭日旗, juurokujou kyokujitsuki, literally the rising sun flag from which 16 rays emanate) continues to be used on commercial packaging and by the Japan Self-Defense Force,"

Pardon me, but isn't the Japan Self-Defense Force a function of the government of Japan?

8 ( +9 / -2 )

That wasn't much fun!

10 ( +13 / -3 )

So what is the deal with the rising sun flag to the koreans and chinese? Do they see it like western countries see nazi-swastika? Trying to understand why they have such problems with it.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

"Five fun facts"??? What are the non-fun facts if these are considered "fun"?

1 ( +4 / -3 )

hold on 9m x 13.6m is not a ratio of 3 to 2... somebody stuffed up when making that.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Why are countries so fond of using the sun as a symbol for their flag? China has five stars (suns), USA has many more and some countries use both the sun and the moon.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@555Book

The stars on the US flag represents the states not the sun.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Most Japanese people don't have flags home. It seems that they don't want to raise it up on national holidays. I seldom see flags up at houses around my residences.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

In DH's home town they still put them up on holidays. We have quite a flag collection spanning decades after cleaning out their house a couple of years ago.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Most Japanese people don't have flags home. It seems that they don't want to raise it up on national holidays. I seldom see flags up at houses around my residences.

That's because despite the bleating by Japan's neighbors and the international press, there's not that much nationalist sentiment here.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

I personally see nothing wrong with the flag -- only with people being forced to observe it. Anyway, I knew all these facts save the last one, though I still say the circle in the middle is red.

Another interesting fact, though not so much 'about' the Japanese flag is that Bangladesh's flag is very similar, but thye use green instead of white.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Another interesting fact, though not so much 'about' the Japanese flag is that Bangladesh's flag is very similar, but they use green instead of white.

The sun isn't quite in the centre on the Bangladeshi flag; it's set off to the left.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Used to work at a Japanese subsidiary of an American company, so it had both flags out front. Arriving one morning, I noticed the American flag had been hung upside down by the receptionist; I pointed this out, and she was quite embarrassed., rushing out to correct the mistake.

A few days later, I told her that now the Japanese flag was hanging upside down. She rushed out again, stared up at it for awhile, and finally looked at me quite perplexed: 「本当に?」 It wasn't until I burst out laughing that she understood the joke.

13 ( +13 / -0 )

I didn't know the Izumo Taisha flag was the biggest. That is cool.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

wtfjapan hold on 9m x 13.6m is not a ratio of 3 to 2... somebody stuffed up when making that.

Yeah it is and really if you're gonna split hairs about one sodding centimetre, get serious.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

"a rising sun is still a sun though"

I didn't say it wasn't.

"Most Japanese people don't have flags home. It seems that they don't want to raise it up on national holidays."

That's true in most countries.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

The Rising Sun flag was still in use at my daughter's Japanese School graduation ceremony in California a dozen years ago. What a last-minute surprise that was.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Most Japanese people don't have flags home. It seems that they don't want to raise it up on national holidays. I seldom see flags up at houses around my residences.

Isn't it mostly Americans who do that?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Knowbetter.

Actually it's in error by 10 centimeters.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"the red circle must be exactly centered and 3/5 the width of the flag"

Shouldn't that be 3/5 the height of the flag?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It's probably more prevalent in more rural areas, but it's not particularly uncommon to see homes displaying the flag here in Japan on national holidays. I've certainly seen many private homes displaying the flag in many areas of Tohoku, and in the more rural parts of Kanto, including Saitama, Chiba, and Kanagawa. Perhaps even more often in parts of Ibaraki and Tochigi, but I wasn't counting, and don't really care one way or the other.

It's true that I don't see a lot of private dwellings displaying flags in more urban areas, but there may be a practicality issue: how many urban dwellings have space for a flagpole?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Here in Scotland I have never seen a private home flying flags outside of an international football match, and even then they hang the flag outside the window. Stately homes and the like have flagpoles, but not the average house, either in the cities or the country.

Maybe we're not such rootin' tootin' flag salutin' patriots as other countries.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

what i miss is how and why this flag returned from history!!!! it would have been the most fun fact to know so here comes number six. when the sengkoku jidai was at it fullest there was one clan in the end that looked to have the best leader, army and dedicated samurai. this leader allready developed the countryside and developed his own way of country administration based on his own time but in correct order to the heijan time way of governing and mixed with that of the kamkura dokoro. offcourse this figure was Takeda Shingen and one of the banners he carried with him was the traditional flag. shingen was the only one trying to maintain the traditional way even in how his army looked. opposite to easy to make sober koroi's his army was dressed in the traditional colourfull way.

later tokugawa took over this way of thinking and doing and carried also a small banner with the sun sign which is offcourse the amaterasu flag!!!!

thunderbird 2, celtic people have the tradition of 3, 3 goddes, 3 anthems and 3 flags and due to the clan culture and we never felt we belonged to an empire like japan or the english who experienced the romans we had a more regional traditions, your own clan!!!!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The sun flag, specially the naval flag with the sun rays, are extremely offensive to Chinese and Koreans. There are loads of photos floating on the web showing Japanese atrocities, where the sun flag is prominently featured on the Japanese soldiers, war ships, or dangling from bayonets.

Seeing these flags, especially on military personnel or ships, help people remember the humiliation from the past and link the modern day Japanese with it in their minds. It's really an unnecessary burden Japan places on itself. This is the sort of tainted pride you don't need.

To think otherwise only indicate you still have the imperialist ghost in you. Japan should've turned totally new page in 1945. This conditional surrender, instead of the "unconditional surrender" the Americans initially demanded, was really a curse, not a blessing. It still haunts everybody today. And it seems there's no way to get rid of it now.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

The Japanese flag is the universal symbol for women illustrating when their menstrual cycles will start. They write little flags in their schedule books, it's so cute.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

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