Meet the Flag of Japan Hinomaru

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The flag of Japan is just a white background with a red circle called a Hinomaru. What is the history and secret behind this simple Japanese flag? In this article, we will see everything about the flag that represents the rising sun and its variations.

The flag of Japan has a white rectangular shape with a large red disk in the center measuring 2:3 in size. She is officially called Nisshōki [日章旗] which means flag of the sun, but is commonly known as Hinomaru [日の丸] which means sun disk.

The Japanese flag displays a circle representing the Sun and has been used since 1870. The design has been used since the twelfth century by samurai who drew the circle of the Sun on fans called “gunsen”. The Hinomaru began to appear frequently in Sekigahara battles around 1600.

japan flag photo
Japan flag photo

Meaning of the Flag of Japan

The origin of the flag is somewhat unknown. Some legends claim that at the time of the Mongol invasion during the 13th century, a Buddhist priest named Nichiren gave a flag with a red circle to the shogun. 

But the main meaning of the "rising sun" flag has been symbol in Japan since the 7th century, an official document from the year 607 that was sent to Sui Yangdi (an emperor of China) begins with "of the emperor of the rising sun".

Another reason for the use of the sun on the flag was the desire for simple and elegant models by Japanese warriors to reflect the cultured condition of the samurai. The sun is also strongly related to the imperial family because mythology attests that the imperial throne descended from the goddess Amaterasu (goddess of the sun).

The Flag was also influenced by the name of the country, so we recommend reading the following article: Why is Japan called the “Land of the Rising Sun”?

Hinomaru - all about the flag of japan

History of the Flag of Japan

The first flags registered in Japan date from the unification period in the late 16th century. The flags belonged to each Daimyo and were used primarily in battles.

Most of these flags that the families used were just a color with a design in the middle. This may have influenced the simplicity of the Japanese flag. Even today, Japanese states use this simplicity in their flags.

The Hinomaru was made official in 1870 as a merchant flag, becoming the first national flag adopted in Japan between 1870–1885. National symbols were strange things to the Japanese. 

After the Second World War, the flag, which was a military symbol, began to be criticized and left aside until 1999 when the law on the Flag and National Anthem was passed officially choosing the Hinomaru and Kimigayo (anthem) as national symbols of the Japan.

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Curiosities about the flag of Japan

Many think that Japan's flag is red and white, but in fact, the flag's red hue is a crimson. If you try to make a standard red flag, you will notice the huge difference.

As already mentioned, most flags of Japan have a simple design, with a solid color, accompanied by a centralized icon. Some provinces have a symbol referring to their history, nature, animal, coat of arms or ideogram of the name.

Hinomaru - all about the flag of japan
Some flags of the Japanese provinces

Largest flag is found at the Izumo shrine in Shimane prefecture. It measures exactly 9m by 13.6m and is 47 meters high, weighing absurdly 49kg. This bandana can be tied around the head or around it. From Japan

At hachimaki is another way of showing nationality, it is a bandana with the circle of the Japanese flag in the middle of it, with some motivating phrases. The hachimaki can symbolize perseverance, effort and courage.

Hinomaru - all about the flag of japan

Kimigayo - The short national anthem

We cannot talk about Japan's flag without mentioning at least a little about the National Anthem of the Nation. Kimigayo [君が代] is the national anthem with the oldest lyrics in the world, and also one of the shortest hymns in the world.

It has only 5 sentences and 32 syllables, and was originally a poem. For a long time Kimigayo was known as the Hymn of Japan, but it became an official anthem only in 1999. See below the small National Anthem of Japan:

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JapaneseRomajiTranslation
君が代は
千代に八千代に
さざれ(細)石の
いわお(巌)となりて
こけ(苔)の生すまで
Kimigayo wa
Chiyo ni yachiyo ni
Sazare-ishi no
Iwao to narite
Koke no musu made
May the Emperor's monarchy
lasts for thousands and thousands of generations,
Until the boulder
become a rock
And the mosses will cover it.

Imperial Flag of Japan – Sunbeams

The rising sun flag with a red circle and sixteen stripes that symbolize the sun's rays (Kyokujitsu-ki - 旭日旗) became the official flag of the Japanese Army in 1870. These flags were used mainly on board warships and they represented the rising sun expanding its light more and more over the world.

This flag, which is sometimes very appreciated by some foreigners, actually has a negative connotation in several Asian countries due to the numerous wars that have taken place. Even the Japanese felt a little let down by the general loss of national pride. after WWII.

Japan flag

In 1870, flags were created for the Emperor and members of the imperial family. First, the emperor's flag was adorned with a sun in the center of an artistic model. The carriage flags were a monochrome chrysanthemum, with 16 petals, in the center of a monochromatic background.

These flags were dropped in 1889 when the Emperor decided to use the chrysanthemum on a red background as his flag. The current emperor's flag is a 16-petal chrysanthemum, colored in gold, in the center of a red background.

There are some flags similar to that of Japan. The flag of Bangladesh is similar to that of Japan, with a red disk on a green background. The flag of Palau also resembles that of Japan, although it is a yellow disk on a light blue background.

The flag of Japan in schools

There was a law that required schools to salute the flag and sing the anthem at events, festivals and graduations, teachers were obliged to encourage students to respect the flag.

This caused strong opposition on the part of teachers who defended the students' freedom of thought, belief and conscience. Especially after the Emperor became the symbol of Japan for Constitution and lost all political power.

This law caused the suicide of a school principal in Hiroshima who was unable to resolve the dispute between the school board and his teachers over the use of the Hinomaru It's from "Kimigayo“. Fortunately today, the country is free of obligations.

I hope this article has answered some questions about the flag of Japan. If you liked it, share the article and leave your comments.

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