I will put this issue in the simplest mathematical terms: The Japanese Rising Sun Flag equals the Nazi swastika flag. Simply put, both flags represent cold-blooded military regimes that were responsible for numerous war crimes. Under the Nazi flag, 6 million innocent Jews were killed in brutal concentration camps. Under the Rising Sun flag, many innocent civilians and prisoners of war were mercilessly tortured and killed by Japanese Imperial troops.
It is logical that both symbols of horrible crimes ought to be banned from display regardless of any occasion. After the fall of the Nazi Party, Germany took swift action to remove and ban every Nazi symbol. This shows Germany’s effort to atone for its sins. If I asked anyone to hold the Nazi flag in a crowded street, nearly anyone would refuse to accept my request.
Curiously, the same phenomenon did not occur with the Rising Sun Flag. Furthermore, many people around the world, except the descendants of the Japanese Imperialist Era victims, are indifferent to the meaning behind the Rising Sun Flag. As a matter of fact, I see these signs in countless places. Either directly or indirectly, the Rising Sun Flag is placed on jackets, gloves, music videos, posters and Olympic gymnastics uniforms, and it is carried by supporters at international sporting events.
The usage of the flag is not even limited to the Japanese. For instance, one of the most famous English rock bands, Muse, produced a music video for one of its hit songs, “Panic Station.” The music video takes place in the Tokyo metropolitan area, and one scene shows a large Rising Sun image in the background. This scene alone brought outraged reactions from the Chinese and Korean public on Muse’s social networks, so much so that Muse had to make a public announcement that they were deeply sorry for the thoughtless use of the Rising Sun Flag in their music video.
Frankly, I do not think that Muse realized the negative impact behind the flag. They probably thought that it is one of Japan’s cool fashion icons. This incident proves that most people do not know the historic symbolism behind the flag. Therefore, the fundamental point of this column is: How did this symbol of war crimes ever reach the public without censorship?
Some may ask why Americans should care about such a matter like the Japanese Empire and its war crimes. The Rising Sun Flag became ingrained in popular culture around the world. Today, popular culture pervades the whole world, and many countries enjoy the same popular music and films. Therefore, as long as the Rising Sun Flag exists in pop culture, we share the responsibility of knowing the origin. Nazi symbols earned their rightful place as banned in some places and repellant to people, so why can’t the imperial flag be treated the same way? To know the cause, we need to look at the history behind the flag.
In fact, the Rising Sun Flag was highly restricted to the point of being completely banned by Gen. Douglas MacArthur and the Allied Powers right after the end of the Pacific War. The restrictions were slowly reduced as the years went by, and by 1949, before the Korean War broke out, the Japanese government abolished the restrictions. As in Germany, the Allied Forces planned to station their troops in Japan in order to completely neutralize any threat of Imperial Japan’s vestiges during reconstruction of the government and education system. Japan was to become a permanently harmless agricultural nation.
This policy changed when the Korean War broke out. In order to halt the communist advance in East Asia, the United States had to allow Japan to develop heavy industries again. Furthermore, many of the alleged war criminals who could have been prosecuted by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East didn’t end up being charged. The surviving politicians and generals formed their own political party.
I truly hope that fellow students are well aware of the fact that the Rising Sun Flag symbolizes war crimes in the same way that the Nazi flag does. If you actually have any items that bear the flag, I would sincerely suggest that you reconsider displaying them. Countless people were scarred by the inhumanities of World War II. Consequently, bringing out any symbols that bear the horrifying memory of madness is seriously disrespectful and offensive to victims and their descendants.
Alex Cho is a freshman political science major at Drexel University. He can be contacted at [email protected]