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Buddhist flag variants seen in Japan and Korea

Last modified: 2013-12-21 by rob raeside
Keywords: buddhism | japan | korea |
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Buddhist Flag in Japan

[Japanese Buddhist flag] image by Tomislav Todorovic, 14 November 2010

[Japanese Buddhist flag] image by Tomislav Todorovic, 14 November 2010

Although the "standard" Buddhist flag is also used in Japan [1], there is a widely used flag with green, yellow, red, white and blue colors, which represent five Dhyani Buddhas [2, 3], who are worshipped by many Buddhists in Japan. The flag has both the horizontal and the vertical variants, which can be used simultaneously, as was seen in Kyoto on 2008-09-23 [4]. The flag was also used in Tokyo on 2006-04-08, during the celebration of Hanamatsuri ("Flower Festival" - Buddha's birthday), which was organized by Tsukiji Honganji temple [5, 6]. Both of these examples indicate the use of the flag by the Jodo Shin Shu sect, whose teachings actually concentrate on only one of the Dhyani Buddhas, Amitabha, but the concept is obviously not alien to them. The flags often appear in form of the windsock, with hoist edge sewn into a tube and fly edge divided into five separate tongues. This was seen in Kyoto on 2007-03-26 [7] and 2010-10-18 [8] and in Nishinomiya on on 2006-09-20 [9]. Another photo of a "windsock flag", accompanied with three koinobori (carp-shaped windsocks) hoisted for the Children's Day, can be seen at the Wikipedia [10].

[1] Flickr - "Standard" Buddhist flag in Kyoto (photographed on 2005-11-30):
[2] Wikipedia page about the Buddhist flag:
[3] Wikipedia page about the Five Dhyani Buddhas:
[4] Photo of two Buddhist flags in Kyoto at Wikipedia:
[5] Buddhist flags at the Hanamatsuri parade, Tokyo, on 2006-04-08:
[6] website - about the Tsukiji Honganji temple and the Hanamatsuri:
[7] Flickr - Buddhist "windsock flags" in Kyoto (photographed on 2007-03-26):
[8] Flickr - Buddhist "windsock flag" in Kyoto (photographed on 2010-10-18):
[9] Flickr - Buddhist "windsock flag" in Nishinomiya (photographed on 2006-09-20):
[10] Photo of a Buddhist "windsock flag" with three koinobori at the Wikipedia:

Buddhist flag in Korea

[Korean Buddhist flag] image by J. Ehrlich Zdvorak 21 December 2000

I saw this flag in Korea on several Buddhist institutions and temples. Korean Buddhism (mostly Son, or Zen) is Mahayana Buddhism. In this case, this swastika is, of course, something completely different than the one which national-socialist ideology had used in twentieth century.
J. Ehrlich Zdvorak
21 December 2000

Pure Land Buddhism

[Pure Land Buddhist flag]  recoloured from image by António Martins-Tuválkin 27 November 2001

The Japanese sect of Pure Land Buddhism known as "Jodo Shin Shu" uses the Buddhist flag as shown on the FOTW website. However, the Orange fields are replaced with pink and that is the only difference. I have grown up in the Japanese community and have attended temple since I was a Dharma School student (like Sunday School). I have been staring at the Jodo Shin Shu Flag in our Temple for many years sitting there in the congregation. The US flag hold the place of honor next to the altar and the Jodo Shin Shi flag on the opposite side. I only remember this because we have a Boy and Girl scout troop at the temple and they often use the flags in scouting ceremonies (i.e., taking the scout oath and receiving the Sangha or Padma scout religious medals for Buddhism). Our Sensei once brought out the flag during a sermon and explained the flag and the difference between it and the World Buddhist Flag.
Shaku Seiju, 5 March 2005

On the current Los Angeles Buddhist Temple website (called Nishi Hongwanji Los Angeles Betsuin ) there is a section on their site that shows Buddhist symbols. The Buddhist flag is one of them:

The description that accompanies the photo of the flag is 'The first five stripes of the flags are self-colors of blue, yellow, red, white and light red. The sixth color is a combination of the five. The flag symbolizes the unity and harmony of Buddhists.'

Earlier I stated that the fifth color was "pink". However in the description here, it is listed as light red. I'm sure when you look at the photo you might agree that it looks pink like I had stated.
Shaku Seiju, 23 June 2005