Hinomaru - Meaning of the Flag of Japan

The flag of Japan is just a white background with a red circle called a Hinomaru. What is the story 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 rectangular white shape with a large red disc in the center, with a ratio of 2:3. It is officially called Nisshōki [日章旗], which means "flag of the sun", but it 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.

Photo of the flag of Japan
Japan flag photo

Meaning of the Flag of Japan

The origin of the flag is somewhat unknown. Some legends claim that during the Mongol invasion in 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 a 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 "from the Emperor of the Rising Sun".

Another reason for the use of the sun in the flag was the desire for simple and elegant designs by Japanese warriors to reflect the cultured condition of the samurai. The sun is also strongly related to the imperial family in that 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 japan flag

History of the Flag of Japan

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

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

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

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

Hinomaru - all about the japan flag
Some Japanese prefectural flags

Japan's largest flag is found at the Izumo Shrine in Shimane Prefecture. It measures exactly 9m by 13.6m and is 47 meters tall, weighing an absurdly 49kg. This bandana can be tied around the head or around it.

The hachimaki is another way to show 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.

We recommend reading: Hachimaki - The traditional Japanese bandanas

Hinomaru - all about the japan flag

The article is still halfway through, but we recommend also reading:

Kimigayo - The Short National Anthem

We can't talk about the flag of Japan without mentioning at least a little bit about the National Anthem of the Nation. Kimigayo [君が代] is the oldest national anthem in the world, and also one of the shortest anthems in the world.

We recommend reading: Kimigayo - Japanese National Anthem

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

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 and Yachiyo
Sazare-ishi no
Iwao to nose
Koke no musu made
That the Emperor's monarchy
last for thousands and thousands of generations,
until the boulder
become a rock
And the mosses will cover it.

Imperial Flag of Japan - Sun Rays

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

This flag, which is sometimes highly appreciated by some foreigners, actually has a negative connotation in many countries in Asia due to the countless wars that have taken place. Even the Japanese felt a little let down by the general loss of national pride after World War II.

Read also: Imperial Japan History - World War II and Fall

Flag of Japan

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

These flags were discarded in 1889 when the Emperor decided to use the chrysanthemum on a red background as his flag. The current emperor's flag is a chrysanthemum with 16 petals, 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 disc on a green background. The flag of Palau also resembles that of Japan, although it has a yellow disc on a light blue background.

The Japanese flag in schools

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

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

This law caused the suicide of a school principal in Hiroshima who could not resolve the dispute between the school board and his teachers over the use of Hinomaru and " 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.

Questions involving the Flag of Japan

What do the colors of the flag of Japan mean?

The flag of Japan has only two colors. The white color: symbolizes purity. Already the color red: refers to sincerity.

What does the flag of Japan represent?

The circle on the flag of Japan represents the Sun. This symbolism is rooted in the Japanese belief that the Emperor is a direct descendant of the sun goddess Amaterasu.

Is it allowed to use the flag of Japan for commercial purposes?

The Japanese government has specific rules for the use of Hinomaru: It must not be used for advertising or commercial purposes.

What are the rules for flying the flag of Japan?

"Ale" must be flown from the left side of a ship or building, and the circle must face to the right. It must not be placed upside down or turned over.

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