Critics fear new samurai sword logo for Japan’s armed forces will offend neighbours

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 September, 2016, 2:44pm
UPDATED : Monday, 12 September, 2016, 10:03pm

Japan has defended the decision to incorporate an unsheathed katana sword in the new emblem for its Ground Self-Defence Forces after critics claimed it would stir anger in neighbouring countries.

The new logo - the samurai sword and its sheath crossed within a green-bordered circle and also incorporating a five-pointed star and the red sun from the hinomaru flag – will revive unpleasant memories of Imperial Japan’s invasion and occupation of large swathes of the Asia-Pacific in the early decades of the last century, the critics charge.

Yoko Shinohara, a 66-year-old antiwar activist, has been so angered by the design that she started a petition on the Change.org web site demanding that it be withdrawn. The petition, which began in June, has nearly 25,000 signatories. But the Ministry of Defence insists that the gracefully curved katana is merely a well-known symbol of Japan.

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“They chose to use a sword because it reflects Japanese history and culture,” a spokesman for the ministry said. “This sword is a symbol of Japanese samurai and of strength, which is why it was considered appropriate for the Ground Self-Defence Force.”

The new symbol will be incorporated into plaques, pennants and other gifts that will be given to the representatives of nations’ military forces when they take part in joint exercises or operations.

“We only want people in foreign countries to understand a little more about our history and culture,” the spokesman said.

Online commentators have broadly dismissed the detractors’ petition, with one contributor to the Japan Today web site writing: “This just goes to prove that someone will complain about everything.”

“What a ridiculous non-issue,” another poster added. “The job of a military is to destroy things and kill people when necessary. So what do these complainers want as an emblem? A flower pot?”

Others jokingly suggested that those opposed to the use of a sword would prefer to see Hello Kitty or Pikachu on the emblem.