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You’ve seen it flying high above government buildings and waved wildly during the Olympics, but how well do you actually know the Japanese flag? Let’s take a look at five facts about that familiar dotted flag.

1) The official name of the flag of Japan is 日章旗 (nisshoki, meaning “sun-mark flag”), but most people just call it 日の丸 (hinomaru, meaning “circle of the sun”). As you may have guessed, the red circle in the middle of the flag represents the sun.

Flag of Japan

2) The first documented use of the flag of Japan was in 701, as mentioned in the Shoku Nihongi, a classical Japanese history text, which credited Emperor Mommu with the flag’s use. However, the flag wasn’t officially adopted by the Japanese government until 1999 after the signing of the Law Regarding the National Flag and National Anthem.

3) The dimensions of the national flag are extremely specific. The length and height must be at a ratio of 3 to 2 and the red circle must be exactly centered and 3/5 the width of the flag. Confused? So were we, so take a look at this handy diagram for a clearer picture:

Japanese flag construction

4) The flag of Japan isn’t white and red, it’s white and crimson. 

▼ Look strange? That’s because it’s red.Flag of Japan color red

▼ This is what the flag of Japan should look like. Bright and crimson!Flag of Japan color crimson

5) The largest national flag in Japan is located at Izumo Shrine in Shimane Prefecture. It measures 9m x 13.6m (29.5ft x 44.6ft) and is 47 m (154ft) in the air. It weighs an impressive 49kg (108 lbs).

▼ Look at it wave in the breeze! It’s huuuuge!

***BONUS***

Although no longer officially used by the government of Japan because of its militaristic and imperialistic connotations, the Rising Sun Flag was adopted as the national flag in 1870. However, the flag continues to be used on commercial packaging and by the Japan Self-Defense Force, but is considered offensive to countries with strong anti-Japanese sentiment, especially China and South Korea.

800px-Naval_Ensign_of_Japan

So how much did you really know about the flag of Japan? Are you surprised by any of the facts above?

Source: Naver Matome
Images: Wikipedia (1, 2, 3, 4), shima shima dot (1, 2)