井の中の蛙

8/27/2005

Yasukuni and Japanese Flags

Rod Wilson and I visited Yasukuni on August 15 to check out the right-wing festivities, which was a pretty…interesting…experience. It was everything you’d expect with the ridiculously nationalistic speeches all day, right-wingers wearing all manner of Japanese military uniforms, jack-booted young wannabe fascists with shaved heads, and the black noise vans everywhere. There was even a choir of elementary school children singing gunka. Rod in particular got some nice photographs because he also went in the morning when the crowds were the largest. Unfortunately we both missed the speech by Ishihara Shintaro, but we did see a speech by an old woman who kept talking about the need to remember the sacrifices of Japanese soldiers and the “onshirazu” of Japanese today. At the climax of the speech, she dramatically revealed that that she wasn’t Japanese as we had thought all along but actually a native Taiwanese, and then wrapped up with an anecdote about how kind and gentlemanly the Japanese soldiers were to her as a young girl in wartime Taiwan, before concluding with a thundering declaration in English saying “Americans go home! Stay out of Japan! Not your Business!” to the roar of the enthralled crowd. Konrad would doubtlessly have enjoyed the chance to hear the speech – apparently some World War II collaborators are alive, well, and still collaborating.

On a related note, Rod and I were pondering how to refer in Japanese to the flag with the radiating rays of sun used by the Japanese navy during the war. We’d heard it referred to in English variously as the “naval ensign” or the more evocative “sunburst flag”, but we weren’t sure about what it’s called in Japanese. We both sort of half-remembered the term “Nisshouki” (日章旗), but it turns out that that is just the official name of the regular Japanese flag more commonly known as the “hinomaru” (日乃丸). Well, we did a little research and found out that the “sunburst” flag is called the “Kyojitsuki” (旭日旗) in Japanese, which makes sense. But the question still remains, what are the best terms to use to distinguish these two flags in English? The best translation for 旭日旗 would probably be “rising sun flag”, but that is problematic because the regular flag is commonly called the “rising sun flag” in English publications and even on EDICT, leaving only “naval ensign” or “sunburst flag” for the Kyojitsuki. Perhaps it would be better to come up with a more accurate translation of hinomaru/nisshouki? “Sun circle flag” perhaps? “Sun disc flag”? “Sun emblem flag”?

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