By Ewa Nowogorski
The American flag is a symbol of freedom, of peace, and of pride for one’s country. The 50 stars represent the 50 states of the US, and the 13 red stripes symbolize the original 13 colonies that helped shape America into what it is today. The colors also have their own unique meanings as well. Red symbolizes hardiness and valor, white symbolizes purity and innocence, and blue represents vigilance, perseverance and justice.
The Japanese flag is simpler, but that does not mean its symbolism is any weaker. On this flag is a simple red circle in the center of the flag, representing the sun. Thus, Japan is sometimes poetically referred to as the land of the rising sun, because the sun rises very beautifully over the sea to the east.
While to Americans, the American flag is something to display on one’s porch or in one’s home proudly. You will find the American flag strung up high in every public school, and even inside some classrooms. Public school auditoriums also have a large flag usually on stage or next to the stage, and it is used for ceremonies and even the morning pledge of allegiance. Americans and even Japanese people proudly wear American flag patterned clothes as either a show of patriotism or as a simple, meaningless fashion statement. Americans proudly wave their flag on certain holidays, especially Independence Day on the 4th of July.
Japanese people, unlike American people, do not think as patriotically of their country’s flag. You will occasionally see it in public schools and outside government buildings, but private citizens rarely have the flag displayed outside or inside their own homes. And there is certainly very little merchandise sold in Japan to non-tourists that display Japanese flag prints. In fact, it would almost be absurd to see a Japanese person walking around with a shirt that had the Japanese flag on it.
In Japanese, the flag has a very specific, narrow meaning of politics. Most people are not too concerned or passionate about politics to begin with, so most people don’t care for the flag. Only extremely political people would have the flag displayed in their own home, and even then they would still never wear it on their shirt. It’s almost embarrassing for them to do so. The Japanese flag definitely does not have as liberal a use or symbolism the way the American flag does.