The National Flag of Japan is a rectangle made up of a crimson-red disc centered upon a white banner. It was adopted as the civil ensign by Proclamation in 1870, and adopted as the National flag on August 13, 1999, after slight modifications to the design. This flag has been used for over a thousand years, but no one can be sure who designed it or when. The crimson represents sincerity and passion and the white stands for purity and honesty.
The Japanese flag is known as Hinomaru in Japanese, meaning “circle of the sun”. Because geographically Japan lies at the far West of the Pacific Ocean, the sun rises spectacularly over the sea to the East. That is the inspiration for the design of the flag. It embodies the quote that is most associated with the Country, “the Land of the Rising Sun”.
The sun plays an important role in Japanese mythology and religion, because the Emperor is said to be the direct descendant of the sun goddess, Amaterasu and the validity of the ruling house rested on this divine appointment and descent from the chief deity of the predominant Shinto religion. The name of the Country as well as the design of the flag reflect this central importance of the sun. Japan (Nihon or Nippon in Japanese) means “the origin of the sun”.
The largest Japanese flag is at the Izumo Shrine in Shimane prefecture. It is 9 meters tall and 13.6 meters wide. It flies 47 meters in the air and weighs 108 pounds.
The oldest Japanese flag can be found in Yamanashi Prefecture, at Unpo-ji Temple in Koshu. It dates back to the 16th Century and according to legend, it was offered to the temple by the Emperor Go-Reizei in the 11th Century.
Many people in Japan see the flag as a symbol of imperialism and aggression. For this reason, the flag is not often flown in public.