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Toy Boat with Japanese Flags


This is one of many toy boats that the Eameses collected from around the world. It incorporates several materials in a range of colors and textures: paper flags, green yarn “ropes,” a glossy painted hull atop geometric blue and gold waves—all perched on round wooden wheels. The Eameses were fascinated by the appearance of similar toys in many cultures, and although they generally emphasized the commonalities that can be observed in toys from across the world, their collection also offers the opportunity to observe differences. In many cases, differences take the form of culturally specific signifiers. Here, the two flags attached to the boat’s mast identify it as Japanese. The flag with the red circle on a white background is familiar as the current national flag of Japan. The other sunburst design is somewhat less common today. It dates to the early 17th century and was adopted as the war flag of the Japanese army and navy in the late 19th century. Today, it is still flown by certain Japanese military forces, but is also considered offensive by some groups, especially in China, Korea, and the Philippines, who associate it with Japanese imperialism.

  • Medium:Wood, papier-mâché, paint, yarn, paper
  • Dimensions:14 x 11 1/2 x 4 in. (35.6 x 29.2 x 10.2 cm)
  • Origin:Japan
  • Item:T.2019.2.125.7