The V-sign, or peace sign as it’s known today, is an integral part of East Asian picture taking. If you were to browse through pictures of East Asians on social media or to Google the words ‘East Asia’ or ‘Japan’ and ‘picture’ in whichever order, chances are you would find tonnes of pictures with, not exclusively but, mostly young Asians flashing smiles as they make the peace sign.
Interesting, right? But, why?
The ‘V’ sign was first used by Winston Churchill in World War II to mean Victory, V for Victory, and upon seeing this, his troops began using it and adopted it as a gesture in support of the war effort symbolizing resistance.
Journalists then took photos of these soldiers which, as always, found their way into newspapers all over the world and set the precedent for use of the then V-sign in photographs.
In the ’60s, the V-sign was converted into a symbol of peace and not for war in the US by hippies and protesters who would flash the V-sign during the Vietnam war protests to mean peace which is how it came to be known as the peace sign.
At around the same time, the hippie community in Japan began using this sign which mysteriously found its way into mainstream Japanese society from the hippie subculture.
The Year Was 1972
Posing for pictures with a peace sign started becoming popular, especially among the Japanese youth in 1972. It is not exactly clear how this became popular but there are a number of theories that surround the origin of the peace sign in Japan, all seemingly coming from the year 1972. I shall mention two here.
- In the ’70s, Janet Lynn, an American figure skater and anti-war activist was frequently photographed by Japanese media using this sign as peace. In the 1972 Olympics that were held in Japan, she won over the hearts of the Japanese both for her artistic performance and for holding her head up high even after falling on the ice. Her popularity gave rise to copy cats thus, giving rise to the use of the peace sign in photos.
- Another theory that arose from that same year is that surrounding Jun Inoue, a famous Japanese actor who starred in Konica commercials where he flashed the V-sign believing it was a popular Western gimmick (he probably thought he was being cool) and just like that, it caught on and people begun using it in pictures.
Using the peace sign in photos is part of the The Kawaii Culture and young girls especially find it absolutely Kawaii to use it in photos.
Basically, there is really just a lot of speculation about the origin of the peace sign in photos. Maybe the Japanese just did not seem to find or understand what joy comes in taking photos and decided to come up with something that would make photos less boring, who knows?
Oh and for your protection (maybe health?) 😀 , the peace sign comes with a warning label; if you visit Japan you may just find yourself giving the peace sign in photos and although doing it mockingly at first, you will find that it’s oddly addictive 🙂
Peace out! 😀