Samurai sword in new Japan Self-Defense Force emblem supports Military Agression?

by Shogo Makashima on September 12, 2016 - 3:46pm



Earlier this year, Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) unveiled their new emblem. The Sakura Katana emblem features the flag of Japan above an unsheathed Japanese sword, with a cherry blossom-shaped star. This decision from the GSDF has caused a lot of indifference among many people worldwide. Why? Looking back through history we can discover that the last time a Japanese soldiers carried a sword in arms was in World War II, during the days of Japans imperial army (IJA). Because of this many countries such as China and South Korea believe that the emblem is inappropriate saying that the visual connection between the GSDF and the IJA is insensitive towards the countries that were on the receiving end of Japanese military aggression during that time.


Those in favor of keeping the GSDF emblem take a moral relativist stance by stating that the Katakana is a cultural symbol of peace that dated back before World War II and that Japanese culture is relative to itself and shouldn’t have to conform to any other countries demands or requests but should be able to freely practice its culture and belief. Japan has already publically apologized and has given financial aid to countries that were treated poorly by the imperial Japanese army so why should they be bound still be bound to it. Some compare the Swastika and katana saying that there are many similarities but Most Japanese people believe that the two are not comparable because the katana was never a symbol used during World War II to gratify the IJA it was just a weapon that they had on them while the Swastika was purposely used by the Germans to portray who they were and what they believed in.


Those against keeping the GSDF emblem take an objectivist stance by stating that due to events that occurred during World War II and the brutality that was issued at the hand of the Imperial Japanese Army who carried the swords, a universal moral principle must be put in place in order to not offend those who have been directly or indirectly affected by these events. Although the katana symbolizes peace long before world war II, In order to not offend others it would be best to change the symbol seeing that the emblem is going to be used for a Japanese Self Defense Force. And seeing that the GSDF would be dealing with universal affaires many believe it should try to be sensitive to historic events and other people cultures and interpretation of the emblem.  Some can even compare the swastika to the katana. Just like the swastika which was once seen as a symbol that represented peace, due to the use of the symbol by the Germans in World War II it can no longer be used on flags and many countries have banned the flag from even being allowed to be owned bought or sold. So why should there be an exception for the katana?



In my opinion I believe that Japan should have the right to use the katana in their emblem seeing the cultural heritage and value it holds. Japan should not be subjected to follow another countries cultural habits due to the fact that it fails to see what the samurai sword truly symbolizes. So what do you think? Can a historical event permanently infringe and chance what was once seen as a symbol representing peace into a symbol that shouldn’t be used at all?



Baseel, RocketNews24 By Casey. "JapanToday." Japan Today RSS. N.p., 11 Sept. 2016. Web. 12 Sept. 2016.


Your article is very thought-provoking and clearly structured. I agree that Japan should be allowed to use the Katana in their emblem. The history behind the sword goes way beyond World War II and the way the IJA treated other countries during that time. In my opinion, is not at all comparable to the Swastika symbol. The Katana may have been a sword that was used for extreme brutality but does not symbolize hate towards any particular society, unlike the Swastika. The Katana is a traditional weapon in Japan that has extensive historical background and is a symbol of peace in their culture. I think that the Katana is more culturally significant to the Japanese than its possible representation of the events that occurred during World War II. Should other countries have a say when it comes to cultural decisions within a country?