The tests were confiscated and the teachers forced to apologize to students.

The Rising Sun Flag is a controversial symbol in Asia. The red and white banner of a sun, with its rays stretching out to the edges as thick red streaks, was used by the Japanese Imperial Army in World War II, and as such it’s considered a symbol of oppression and aggression by many Koreans and Chinese.

▼ The standard flag of Japan

▼ The Rising Sun Flag, as used by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II

Even today, celebrities that accidentally sport the flag are quickly shunned by their overseas fans, and attempts to pay respect to the Rising Sun Flag are likely to prompt controversy, so in general most people avoid using it. Evidently, however, one middle school teacher wasn’t aware of the connotations of the flag, as he accidentally used it on a junior high school geography test as a message of encouragement for his students.

What’s worse, a slogan that said, “Show the world the utter gutsiness of Japanese people!” was printed over the Rising Sun image, which was placed in an empty corner of the test paper. Allegedly the 20-something-year-old teacher had simply searched for inspiring images on the Internet and had selected it without thinking very deeply about its meaning, despite the fact that it very much seems like a graphic sported by Japanese nationalists, or one which could easily have been used as propaganda during the war.

The test had been distributed to 95 second-year junior high school students (the equivalent of seventh grade in the U.S.), and after they had been collected back for grading, another teacher noticed the emblem and notified the principal, who decided it was inappropriate. The teacher who made the tests and another teacher in charge of the same school year’s social studies department were reprimanded, and were asked to gather all of the tests back from the students (who had by then had their graded tests returned to them) and apologize to them for the inconvenience and any distress the image may have caused.

The principal acknowledged that the teacher had not intended for the flag and the slogan to be a political image, but he also understood that the flag had different implications for different people, and thus decided that it would be best to remove the problem out of consideration for the students.

This bit of news has caused a stir of debate among Japanese netizens, who have many different opinions on the issue of the Imperial Flag.

“What’s the problem?”
“The reason why a teacher could do this kind of thing is because Abe is indiscriminately waving that flag around and touting out the Imperial Rescript on Education.”
“Rather than apologize, they should teach the students where the flag came from and how it’s still being used by the military today.”
“I don’t have the faintest idea of what the mistake was.”
“If the Rising Sun Flag isn’t illegal then I don’t see why he couldn’t use it.”
“Hold on. ‘Not a political image’? What is that? How is there a social studies teacher who doesn’t know the meaning of this flag? Why wasn’t he fired?”
“This is Japan. Why should we have to be considerate of Koreans?”

Regardless of whether the teacher used the flag and slogan with political intentions, the principal’s dedication to inclusiveness and consideration of minorities is what’s truly astounding about this story, since it is undoubtedly a rare trait in a Japanese school principal. Considering Japan has a tendency to water down their participation in World War II and get angry at anyone who points out otherwise, this one leader’s acknowledgement of the meaning behind the flag is certainly a step in the right direction.

Unfortunately, with many of the Japanese responses being “I don’t see what the problem is”, it’s pretty clear that relations between Japan and other parts of Asia still have a long way to go.

Source: Kyoto Shimbun via My Game News Flash
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Wikipedia/Anomie, Wikipedia/Denniss, Pakutaso