井の中の蛙

6/20/2005

Hinomaru Mystery

Filed under: — tak @ 11:08 am

Over at H-Japan, there’s a discussion about the Hinomaru, Japan’s national flag. I was intrigued and clicked over to Wikipedia.

I knew that the sun represented Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess in Japanese mythology, but did not know that this sun-as-red-circle design was on folding fans in the Genpei Wars. I am guessing that Wikipedia is referring to the Battle of Yashima, famous for a warrior on a horse knocking a fan off of a ship’s mast in some awesome display of archery skill. I did not realize (or chose to forget) that it was a fan with a hinomaru. Maybe there were other scenes with the flag but I’ve never read the Heike Monogatari in full. [You medievalists out there, help!]

I also visited the the Japanese Wikipedia. This entry mentions that the Hinomaru had been used by Satsuma vessels, but then was later used as a sign of the Tokugawa Shogunate during the Boshin War(1868-9)! Supposedly the restorationists used a flag with the imperial Chrysanthemum crest.

I did not know all of this, and I’m surprised that the Hinomaru was used by Tokugawa Loyalists. Does this suggest that the red circle was not always associated with the imperial throne? I don’t know. Anyone know what the politics was of using the Hinomaru around the Meiji Restoration and how it came to be a symbol of Japan? Or any prior use of the flag? Or any bizarre trivia?

Self-Intro: Tak Watanabe

Filed under: — tak @ 3:20 am


Hi, I’m Tak Watanabe, and I’ve just recently joined Frog in a Well.

I am a cultural anthropologist who is keenly interested in the history of Japan. Currently a student at Columbia University in New York, I hope to complete my dissertation in the very near future. In the fall of 2005, I will start teaching anthropology at Sophia University in Tokyo.

My dissertation is tentatively titled “After Prosperity: The Ethics of Restitution in Recessionary Japan.” It is based on ethnographic and archival research in Niihama, a city on the Japanese island of Shikoku known as a “corporate castle-town” of the Sumitomo business group. Nearby is the Besshi Copper Mine, which along with Ashio, Sado, and Ikuno, is one of the more famous non-coal mines in Japan. I primarily focus on how the city residents relate to this corporate group, and how this long-standing relationship is changing as the city undergoes a post-industrial and recessionary decline.

You can read more about me, my research, and my other interests at my blog, The Old Revolution.

Oh, and about the image above. To celebrate my induction into this august line-up of smart and knowledgeable frogs, I figured I’d just post my favorite two-dimensional Japanese batrachian: Pyonkichi from the 1970s manga, Dokonjo-gaeru. And he’s two-dimensional not only because he’s a manga character. In fact, he is a flat frog, squished onto a T-shirt of a middle-school boy!

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