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Samurai sword in new Japan Self-Defense Force emblem causing controversy

43 Comments
By Casey Baseel, RocketNews24

For the most part, the world seems to have decided that samurai swords are pretty cool, aesthetically speaking. The katana is also one of the most instantly evocative symbols of Japan, which is why it shows up frequently in the logos of events and organizations related to the country.

Samurai swords are even experiencing something of a renaissance these days, as a byproduct of the surging interest in history among young Japanese women. However, a katana recently appeared somewhere that critics are saying is inappropriate: the emblem of Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force.

In May, the GSDF unveiled its new Sakura Katana insignia. One of multiple emblems the organization uses, the Sakura Katana features the flag of Japan above a samurai sword, with a cherry blossom-shaped star, a common motif in GSDF uniforms and paraphernalia, at the bottom.

At first, it might be hard to see what all the fuss is about. After all, the members of the GSDF are the closest analogue in modern Japan to the samurai of old. However, unlike certain military organizations, such as the United States Marine Corps, none of the GSDF uniforms have personnel wearing a sword. The last time soldiers in Japan carried swords was in World War II, during the days of the Imperial Japanese Army.

Because of this, some in Japan are saying that this visual connection between the GSDF and the IJA is insensitive towards the countries that were on the receiving end of Japanese military aggression during the first half of the 1900s. What has the potential to be particularly problematic is that the Sakura Katana emblem is to be used in international peacekeeping operations and joint training exercises, where it will also be part of banners, plaques, and other commemorative items. In other words, it’s in a position to be getting greater-than-usual amounts of attention from people of other nations.

In general, the Japan Self-Defense Forces go to great lengths to distance themselves from the Imperial Japanese military. GSDF spokespeople have said that the samurai sword was implemented in the Sakura Katana merely because it is an indigenously Japanese symbol of strength, and not as any sort of salute to the organization’s World War II-era indirect predecessor. It is true that the history and traditions of the samurai go back several centuries, well before the formation of the Imperial Japanese Army, and in describing the Sakura Katana the GSDF stresses that the sword is positioned behind the scabbard, as a metaphor for the organization being “the final institution of homeland defense.”

Detractors, though, could counter that the emblem’s sword being unsheathed at all is indicative of a bellicose stance. A recent online petition to halt the use of the Sakura Katana has gathered some 22,000 Japanese signatures in roughly three weeks, but at the moment, the insignia remains at the top of both the GSDF’s Japanese and English websites, as well as in plans for continued use.

Sources: Asahi Shimbun, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force

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43 Comments
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"critics" "detractors"

Much ado about nothing. WW2? Japanese swords go back over a 1000 years.

15 ( +21 / -6 )

Nonsense.

12 ( +17 / -5 )

I find it hard to believe that it would not incorporate a Samurai sword?

10 ( +15 / -5 )

Yes, I think the katana should be replace with something more frightening like Pikachu or a piece of sushi

8 ( +9 / -1 )

It's not the katana but the sakura that is a symbol of the war. It occasionally symbolized a fallen samurai who sacrificed his life for the emperor,but during World War II, the flowers took on such strong symbolism that they were painted on the side of kamikaze warplanes.

-9 ( +2 / -11 )

Hell, this shouldn't even be news. Some idiot hears something, or decides to stir up shit and then gets someone to write an article about it an publish it on the net'. If it's even true, could be just conjecture or assumption on the authors part, or someone made a comment...."Hey I wonder what the swords are for?" Dumb arse.

9 ( +13 / -4 )

Katana is only one of samurai gear. Head protector Kanto, body protector yoroi, leg protector, thigh protector, and all sort of protectors. Just keep in family storage building called mura and dusty now in homes of samurai dependents. Women used naginata but samurai katana were not used during WWII as katana makers decencents changed their occupation to iron making corporation businessmen. The sdff picks differ than maganas in samurai dependents' house. Modern katana?

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

I also find it ridiculous not to use the sword. As a matter of fact I can't imagine any other symbol that is appropriate. What would replace it "Angry Kitty"?? I don't like the logo though. It looks too western. All the fantastic graphic devices and heraldry in the tome of Japanese artistic history and they come up with this weak watered down version that looks like a nephew did it and the committee of "Appeal to everybody on the Board" watered it down even further.

WTF Japan.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

That is the thing that make Japan be different from other countries.

That is so amazing how this country make others feel irritated for things that are so normal for any country.

Whatever country the act of singing a national anthem, showing national symbols on their sport uniform, portraying a national flag and whatever thing that is associated to the specific country is considered a action of patriotism, but when it comes to Japan, people have different opinions.

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

This just goes to prove that someone will complain about everything.

It's not the katana but the sakura that is a symbol of the war.

Do you mean the chrysanthemum maybe? That's the imperial flower/crest (kamon).

3 ( +8 / -5 )

It should have been Mario and Yoshi.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Swords are historical weapons and many countries do use them as a symbol.

But the difference, for anyone dumb enough not to notice, is that Japan is the only country to take them into a modern war (in a similar act of 'symbolism') and ended up using then to behead countless civilians and POWs. The point is that the sword has been used for symbolism before and it ended in warcrimes. Name any other weapon that is so closely associated with violations of the Geneva Conventions? Conventions which all the worlds militaries are supposed to respect. Japan has only itself to blame for this. They are not being unfairly singled out. Imagine if the Isreali defence force used a white phosphorus plume on their insignia.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/6/6e/Behead_china.jpg

-2 ( +8 / -10 )

Welcome to 2016 where everything offends somebody!

11 ( +12 / -1 )

What complete nonsense. The USAF F-22 Raptor Squadron used a Katana and a Rising Sun no less when based in Kadena Okinawa. http://i.ebayimg.com/00/s/MTAxM1gxMDI0/z/i4kAAOxyDEVSdTb~/$T2eC16N,!)8FJg!dgf)fBSdTb-bjv!~~60_35.JPG http://i.ebayimg.com/images/g/p8MAAOSwcBhWUk-F/s-l300.jpg Or how about the USMC? http://i.ebayimg.com/00/$(KGrHqV,!jkE3Lyw)SRtBOGFEq)-VQ~~0_35.JPG

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Maybe they can add a Mario Brothers cap to the emblem to quiet the protesters.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

The badge would make a nice tattoo. I like it . now waste your "click" on me .

1 ( +3 / -2 )

That is so amazing how this country make others feel irritated for things that are so normal for any country.

Seems to me that in this case the problem is with other countries and not "this" one. They could use a Kitty-chan logo and someone would find something to complain about. It's the complainers that have the problem.

The badge would make a nice tattoo. I like it . now waste your "click" on me .

Waste? Hmmm, if you would have left it ending with tattoo I doubt anyone would care. Grow up.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

M3M3M3Sep. 11, 2016 - 10:28AM JST "Swords are historical weapons and many countries do use them as a symbol." But the difference, for anyone dumb enough not to notice, is that Japan is the only country to take them into a modern >war (in a similar act of 'symbolism') and ended up using then to behead countless civilians and POWs. The point is that >the sword has been used for symbolism before and it ended in warcrimes. Name any other weapon that is so closely >associated with violations of the Geneva Conventions?

Firearms by a longshot.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

There is something of an unsavory sense to the katana-crossed-with-scabbard image we're shown, but though I am normally all about condemning Japanese militarism I have to say I don't think the connection to WWII really works. To be honest I'm more disappointed that they're trying to represent martial prowess symbolized through a weapon that, compared to contemporary and even prior swords from other cultures, was kind of rubbish. Beautiful rubbish, wielded by undoubtedly highly trained, skilled, and brave warriors, but still a rubbish weapon.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

No offence taken with the samurai sword at all, but I think the design is lame. Colour is nice with the green and gold, but the sword and scabbard cross under the flag seems really trashy.

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

What a ridiculous non-issue. The job of a military is to destroy things and kill people when necessary. So what do these complainers want as emblem? A flower pot?

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Swords have been a part if military culture the world over. These are seriously some very bored whiney people.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

I like the design, it's very Japanese (and to hell with those who complain about katana). I'd only prefer not a katana crossed with scabbard, but two crossed katana, just like crossed cannons, rifles, swords on emblems of other armed forces.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I think that there has been some people who have just over reacted here, "Japanese symbol of strength" was mentioned, well how about a carp on the badge or koi nobori emblem? Hello kitty badge? you could go on for hours coming up with suggestions, but the katana is a item/symbol that is recognised all around the world. its very symbolic of Japan, its like taking the lions from the UK or the eagle from Germany/USA, you could argue that the eagle should be replaced with a budgie because its less aggressive.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Looks like Left centric politically correct rot has somewhat taken root in Japan.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Before the advent of modern warfare, some form of a sword was an indispensable tool for close quarter fighting, this is since time immemorial. The katana earned its fame ( infamy to some quarters) because of its recent use and like everything else Japanese, its overglorification, both the sword and it's wielder- the samurai. The Vikings, the Knights etc had good Swords too which they swore by.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Surely you folks can understand why the swords send shivers down some peoples spines, a great many people were very nastily killed & maimed by these swords, so the symbolism IS there like it or not.

And given how Japan continues to have many problems with its history, no surprise some don't like it!! Just sayin....

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Laguna: "It's not the katana but the sakura that is a symbol of the war."

Strangerland: "Do you mean the chrysanthemum maybe? That's the imperial flower/crest (kamon)."

The sakura (cherry blossom) appears on the new Self-Defense Force emblem. As Laguna writes, it was a symbol. "Of the war"? That I don't know, but it was a most evocative symbol during the war particularly in connection with the Special Attack Corps ("Kamikaze").

Strangerland writes "...the chrysanthemum maybe?". I would think that flower is a better symbol "of the war" as soldiers, airmen and sailors - perhaps the nation as a whole - fought in the name of the Emperor whose symbol was the mum. If the chrysanthemum appeared on the new emblem, that would be a problem and worthy of the strongest protest. It seems the SDF respects the constitution as least as far as symbols go.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The IJA loved strutting around carrying and once in a while using their samurai swords in combat, but more often than not it was used against defenseless POWs and innocent civilians.

Personally, I think it shows poor taste and that they should have simply left the samurai sword off their flag (T.P.O) out of respect for the innocent and defenseless WWII victims (and their surviving family members) whose deaths were caused by samurai swords wielded by Japanese soldiers.

It would be kind of like today's German military displaying a Lugar (That sleek pistol Nazi officers carried around with them) on the front of its military flag, wouldn't it? How many French, Russians, Jews, etc., etc. would be up in arms about it? Like the samurai sword, it was more of a flashy decoration and symbol of superiority than anything combat related. Again, as with the samurai sword of WWII, the Lugar was used more often than not on defenseless people who were being oppressed by the Nazis.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

No offence taken with the samurai sword at all, but I think the design is lame. Colour is nice with the green and gold, but the sword and scabbard cross under the flag seems really trashy.

I had the same reaction although rather than trashy I thought kitsch. It looks like something a teppan-yaki restaurant in California might have come up with. The 1950 is just about right.

Others have pointed out that it looks suspiciously like a contemporary British military badge that also features two swords.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

It is pretty visually horrid. It looks like they got someone on staff to put something together instead of finding a proper designer.

Looks like something I'd put together. And that's not a good thing.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Bottom pic is not many small pink leaves flower Sakura. The artist drew something else ?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

If there's one thing I cannot stand it's "Political Correctness, the cowards cop-out. Reality is often tough to take, sweet dreams come from a different planet.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

The eagle has been used for governments and military since the roman empire, the nazis used it and we USA still do. Why not ban the eagle from all military ensignia? Stupid political correct tommy rot! Get a life!

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

that sword isn't even unique to Japan. Koreans had it centuries before it was introduced to Japan (sword enthusiast here) Anyway, for many countries, its a reminder of the gunto , which was used to behead civilians all throughout Asia and the Pacific Islands. I say remove it.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

No Bob, the swords that came to Japan from the Korean Peninsula were straight swords. Called Choku-to you see that in the oldest Japanese artworks and relics. The famous curved sword the world has come to know is a distinctly Japanese design starting from about 800 AD as the Tachi, and evolving into the Katana around 1200 AD.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

As the SDF is always fighting Gojira, it should be in the log IMHO

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The emblem. Top of outer circle has Japanese letters of SDF, bottom has SDF in English Defense. Not defense that means repair fence. So defense.

The katana makers who lost business became knife builders but during wars, they created steel production business and after war, they were awfully rich industrialists. Stii'' rich. :.. teppn, ... tekkosho etch they totaled their corporations.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Replace the katana with a 手裏剣 (ninja star)! There you go! Whose going to complain about a ninja star?!

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

The Katana seems more out of place not being on any SDF insignia TBH, it's almost the complete embodiment of Japanese military history

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Quite short sighted appologist stupidity. The Katana is a cultural symbol of the country not a symbol of wwII. Weapons are involved in every confrontation. SO having a rifle on it is no different, right?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Originally, katana was maybe created somewhere than Japan maybe. Not surprised. Japanese are very good in recreate anything that are created in other countries first. Kanji, katakana hitagana. then various electronic equipments. mangas were not began in Japan. Mlay, Thai had katanas. Cars. Japan did not invent..but Toyota named products oversell Fonda.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Oh my, who are these super-sensitive freaks?! Its a logo paying tribute to the strength of the sword. Would they rather have doves flying in the foreground? How about a pen and paper representing diplomacy?! gimme a break!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

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