Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Visual Symbolism, Baseball and the Japanese Rising Sun Flag

"I don't need an interpreter. My bat does the talking."

(Image borrowed from The Official Site of The Chicago Cubs)

The Chicago Cubs have a new ad campaign stressing the international flavor of their team. Japanese player Kosuke Fukudome, formerly of the Chunichi Dragons, is prominently displayed in the new campaign with a version of the Japanese flag in the background. The flag is the one used by the former Imperial Japanese Army and Navy (interestingly enough the flag is still used by the current Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force).

(Image borrowed from

There is a lot of symbolic baggage with this flag and the Fukudome ad has generated many complaints from American war veterans. The flag is also a problematic symbol in Japan as well. Many equate it with right-wing nationalism and Japanese imperialism. While the Cubs have defended the use of the flag in their ad, they might have benefited from consulting with a visual anthropologist in the early planning and design stages.

Read more in the following articles:

HARD DRIVES: Fukudome can blow by flag flack (Daily Yomiuri, 1/30/08)

Cubs unleash bold, new ad campaign (, posted on the Official Site of the Chicago Cubs)

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