Have you ever wondered why do many Asians Use the V or Peace Sign in Photographs? I have.
Take a photograph of someone from Asia, or better still a group of people, and even better still in front of a popular tourist attraction, and they will inevitably put the two fingers up in the V-for-Victory sign or peace sign.
I always wondered why many Asians use the V sign in Photographs, so I thought I would ask some Japanese people, and also do some research to answer this crazy and endemic phenomenon.
I say ..it may have .. because it is so ingrained in popular culture, that many people do not remember the origin of the V or Peace Sign in Photographs. However, it almost certainly started in Japan, and has spread throughout other Asian countries, and indeed the world.
It may have started with an Olympic skater
One school of thought says it began with an American figure skater, and anti-war activist named Janet Lynn. She was the hot favorite in the 1972 Sapporo, Japan Winter Olympics to win gold. However, she fell during her performance ending her dreams. Obviously shattered, she however smiled and flashed the V for Victory sign. This endeared her to the Japanese people, and her subsequent appearances in the media had her flashing the V-for-Victory sign or peace sign.
Lynn becomes an overnight celebrity for her stoicism, a trait the Japanese admire, that in subsequent media trips around the country following the Olympics, she posed with the V-sign. Many believe that is why many Asians use the V sign in photographs? That it became a symbol of the strength of character, and looked cute, which again aligns with Japanese kawa’ii – the love of all things cute. If you want to learn more about this obsession with cute, read here
This is contentious as to whether it was the one finger or a two finger salute .. but according to The BS Historian
This salute dates back to the English Longbowman who fought the French during the Hundred Years War (1337 – 1453). The French hated the English archers who used the Longbow with such devastating effect. Any English archers who were caught by the French had their Index and middle fingers chopped off from their right hand- a terrible penalty for an archer. This led to the practice of the English archers, especially in siege situations, taunting their French enemy with their continued presence by raising their two fingers in the ‘Two-Fingered Salute’ meaning “You haven’t cut off my fingers !”
Of course, this V-for-Victory sign or peace sign was immortalized by Winston Churchill who used it as a symbol of defiance in WW2 and The V for Victory was widely employed by the anti-war movement in the 1960s to represent peace, including by famous, global personalities such as John Lennon and Yoko Ono. President Richard Nixon used it to declare Victory in the Vietnam War.
It may have started with a famous singer
Jun Inoue was a very popular singer with the popular band the Spiders in Japan. Inoue was also the celebrity spokesperson for Konica cameras and is said to have used the V-sign during the filming of a Konica commercials in 1972. These commercials all featured people making the V sign.
V for Victory in Popular Culture
The V-sign was used in the 1968 baseball comic Kyojin no Hoshi (Star of the Giants), and manga Sain wa V! (V Is the Sign) which was adapted into a television series with the chant “V-I-C-T-O-R-Y!”
Other theories: Why Do Many Asians Use the V or Peace Sign in Photographs
V does not stand for victory at all, but is a “Y” as in “Yeah!” Nowadays, most Japanese people don’t recognize the peace sign as meaning ‘peace’, but recognize it more like ‘say cheese’. It also seems as if some Aussies feel the need to do it when they visit Asia.
To read more about some of the other traits particular to Japan, read here