Visible in the center of Yanagi Yukinori’s Loves Me, Loves Me Not, a large wool carpet, is a deep impression of a sixteen-petaled chrysanthemum, its petals missing but for a single brass one hanging from the central disk. Others lie scattered across the rug, each accompanied by black lettering that reads either “s/he loves me” or “s/he loves me not.” The inscriptions are written in Japanese and the ten Asian languages spoken in Japan’s former colonies (Khmer, Vietnamese, Thai, Indonesian/ Malay, Korean, Chinese, Lao, Tagalog, Tamil, Burmese), with two more drawn from Japan’s “internal” colonies of indigenous people (Ainu, Shuri). The carpet’s color scheme invokes the felicitous red-white pairing used in Japanese ceremonies and the national flag. Yet, a carpet invites you to step or sit on it, giving viewers the opportunity to regard anew the hallowed Japanese chrysanthemum. Ideologically, this work participates in the national conversations that began in Japan in 1995 regarding the long shadow of wartime ideology and the meanings of community and national identity.
Vijayanthi R. Selinger
Associate Professor of Asian Studies Bowdoin College
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