Rising Sun Raises Han


Still so much post-Olympics fallout. While other countries have finished their best worst dressed lists for the international games, Korea (and others) are reacting to the “rising sun”, or Hinomaru, design featured on Japan’s gymnasts uniforms.

There are a lot of pieces to this debate. The average person outside of any conflict with Japan looks at the rising sun design and thinks of the Karate Kid’s headband. No harm done. The educated Japanese know that the design is symbolic of imperialist Japan, which has a lot to answer for. The conservative and nationalist Japanese sees the rising sun with great pride, the same way some white Southerners proudly display confederate flags in the rear windows of their pick up trucks – as a nice backdrop for their gun rack.

Then there are the people who see the rising sun as no different from the swastika of Nazi Germany. The United Nations banned the rising sun flag in 1945, but it hasn’t gone away, and for those who remember what it symbolized for a Japan at war, it’s a reminder of terrors, sadness and injustice. It has been used deliberately in the recent past to stand for Japanese domination, as it did in the not so recent past.

Speculation about whether or not the design was an intentional political statement can go on for a long time. Without the history behind the imagery, it’s just a snazzy design for a uniform in a sport full of smiles and swirly sparkly things. The world we live in doesn’t let us off the hook so easily though. We’ll see if where it leads.


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