Kids' Korner: Flags
Flags play a significant role in the Olympics. For example, every nation’s delegation of athletes walks into the Olympic Stadium during the opening ceremony behind their country’s flag, often wearing an outfit that makes use of their flag’s colors. On television, viewers see what country an athlete is from by a small picture of their country’s flag next to their name.
The national flag of Japan is known as the hinomaru, which means “sun circle.” Japan has been known as “The Land of the Rising Sun,” for many centuries, and the sun is a very import cultural motif. Designs incorporating the sun depicted as a circle over a field of color have a long history in Japan, being sighted at least as far back as the 12th century, and widely used by the 15th and 16th centuries. The hinomaru was first used to represent the country as a whole in the early 17th century on trade ships sent abroad.
This practice was revived after the reopening of foreign trade in the middle of the 19th century by having Japanese ships display a red sun on a white background so as to not be mistaken for foreign vessels, a practice that was made official in 1870. Furthermore, the Kanrin-maru, which carried the first Japanese official delegation to the United States, also bore a hinomaru flag to represent Japan. The hinomaru flag was legally designated as the national flag of Japan in 1999.
As you continue to watch the Olympics perhaps you will see the hinomaru flag hoisted when a Japanese athlete wins a medal.