Decolonize Burning Man for East Asians

This petition made change with 49 supporters!

Lost and famished during our first night at the Burning Man festival in the deserts of Nevada, we were grateful to encounter an official Burning Man ranger station that offered us food and direction. The decor of the station, however, was deeply alienating to us Korean and Chinese American burners as it was decked in imperial Japanese flags. We learned that these flags have served as the theme of the Burning Man north ranger outpost for many years.

Burning Man is a global celebration of independence and inclusivity. Contrary to these ideals, the Rising Sun Flag is widely condemned in East Asia and Southeast Asia as a symbol of colonialism and subjugation and was the war flag of the Imperial Japanese military during the World War II. Numerous Japanese kamikaze pilots wore these flags during their suicide bombings, and many American veterans who served in the Pacific front also find them repugnant.

While the Rising Sun Flag has been used outside military contexts, its evocation of the Rape of Nanking and the sexual slavery of countless “comfort women” makes it insensitive and inappropriate as the theme of an official Burning Man outpost. Unlike Europe, memories of war remain contested and its wounds unhealed in East Asia. Although more visually appealing than the national flag of Japan, the flag with radiating rays also bears no resemblance to the Tokyo city flag.

Before our first night out, we had cooked our first playa dinner of ramen with a Japanese burner. If our camp had been festooned in Japanese imperial flags, we could not have enjoyed such camaraderie. We have raised the issue with several rangers this year but no actions have been taken. We request the Burning Man Project to decolonize its Tokyo ranger outpost by replacing the imperial flags.

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