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The Sun is Red, the Light is Blue

by Ewa Nowogorski

Many objects when simplified and converted into easily recognizable mono color icons usually get assigned a color that is later adopted by all the people of that culture. For example, the color of the sun is considered to be red in Japan, whereas it is considered yellow in America. The Japanese flag has a red circle in its center, and this represents the sun. Can you imagine that circle being yellow or orange? It wouldn’t be quite the same. There are many other such instances like this that I will briefly discuss in this article.

Another example where we see different colors to symbolize the same thing is in traffic lights. In America, we refer to traffic lights as red, yellow, and green. However, in Japan, the colors are referred to as red, yellow, and blue. The light is not actually blue; it looks green, the same as traffic lights in America, but they are called that because the very first traffic lights in Japan were actually closer to blue than green, and the color stuck even when the light colors changed.

Orange is a color that does not have a long history in Japan、and so even fruits that have been around in Japan for hundreds of years such as persimmons are not considered “orange”, but rather a deep “yellow red” (つよい黄赤). And the common word for the color orange does not have a kanji, but rather uses katakana.

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