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#35 Peace Sign

Posted March 15th, 2008 by Peter · 64 Comments

You know you’ve seen it, and you know you’ve wondered why asian people use it so often. All asians: Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and (Insert Asian Ethnicity)-ese have utilized this sign in pictures from the time of the 1972 Sapporo Winter Olympics, where an embarrassed Janet Lynn raised it up in victory after falling on her rump. This phenomenon, from that moment, spread faster than a Windows Vista virus because the Japanese Media plastered it on every poster and television advertisement. (Before that, Americans used it to signal “V” -ictory during WWII, but the Japanese seldom used it as a peace sign.)

“So what is this mysterious V-sign? Is it truly the universal sign for “peace”? A secret sign adopted by a global underground Asian cult who’s mission is to become the next super-race? Or perhaps an ancient math puzzle developed by the monks of the Shaolin Temple?” -FOBSPOT

The truth lies in asian culture, where people are notably shy and outspoken. They have no other means of expressing their happiness, other than a smile, because everyone knows even an asian smile can be mistaken for their chinky eye lining. To show that they are indeed happy, asians outline their grinning chins with a “V” sign to draw attention away from their non-existant eyes. They also wouldn’t ever want to yell something while taking a picture because it would draw more attention to them. However, Asians are always stoked when a photo opp arises. In these situations, asians, instead of using America’s ludicrously awkward phrase, “Cheese,” will use the peace sign to show that they are indeed present in the photograph. By present, I mean enthusiastic and excited about being in someone else’s life story. This is due in part to the Asian love for emotional-understanding and inciting reactions (later post).

That’s why Stuff Asian People Like’s Peter Nguyen went straight to the source this Saturday (China Town) to find out the truth about the Peace Sign. Though many refused to answer (or simply didn’t know how to), there were a myriad of explanations. One such responder, who’s face lit up with joy when asked, was very accommodating and said that the peace sign was ubiquitous with “Being Number One, Victory,” or in Japan, “Ichiban!” She proceeded to demonstrate various positions in which the sign would mean different things. The funny thing is that she was making hamster noises in every which position to emphasize the importance of placement. For example, a “V” sign in front of the face means that the asian is very egotistical and wants to draw the most attention possible to themselves. However, a lower-third peace sign around the abdomen region means that they are more reserved, and don’t want to overshadow others in the picture. Side-ways in front of the eyes is most definitely an older asian’s 80′s statement.


The previous explanation was extremely thorough, but one little feline has most spurred on the globalization of the peace sign: Hello Kitty. Not just Hello Kitty, but all her Sanrio friends, anime/manga series, and commercial television have made the peace sign popular among school girls and in some cases, boys. (Batz Maru, Pochocco, and Pekkle are not female characters). Even though the fingers are non-existent in some cases, this pose has caused a revolution in which children think it’s necessary to raise peace signs to look cute and innocent. The sign lives on today as the residual of a more innocent time in which kids didn’t grow up with computers and instead drew pictures of their favorite cartoon characters.

It started out as a victory and peace statement. It later became a way for an olympian to divert attention from herself (by using a local gesture) after suffering an extremely embarrassing fall. It rode the immigrant train into the Americas, where asian people have diversified it and turned it into a cultural phenomenon. The Peace Sign is definitely something that Asians like because it’s one of the first global habits that is purely “asian.”

Last 5 posts by Peter

Tags: Activities · Anime · Cartoons · Culture · Customs · Films and Movies · Habits · History · Japanese · People

64 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Peter // Mar 15, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    Japanese children learn to make the V-sign atsuch a young age that it is as instinctive a reaction to a camera as smiling. A reporter for Japan Today asked some young Japanese why they made the sign, and got some interesting answers. Seiichi Igeta, aged 17, replied:

    “I make the peace sign but I don’t know why I do it, who invented it and when we started doing this. I think I’ve been doing it since I was born. The peace sign gesture must have been programmed in my DNA, or foreigners mind-controlled Japanese to make the peace sign subconsciously when we pose for a photo to keep the peace after the war.”

    There was also a discussion on the subject on Japan Forum, the online community dedicated to all things Japanese. Westerner Mike Cash, wrote:

    “A really odd thing is that most Japanese don’t even realize they’re doing it, and furthermore seem not to even notice them in their pictures. I remember a high school girl showing me a group photo taken on a school trip. There were about 50 girls in the picture and about 70 or 80 peace signs. (We counted!) Though the photo looked like a huge mass of peace signs to me and it was the first thing that struck me, nobody else present who saw the picture (all Japanese) noticed them at all.”

    The palm-forward V-sign was first used to represent peace in the US in the 1960s, by people campaigning against the war in Vietnam, such as Yoko Ono. Although she is Japanese, Ono probably learned to make the sign in America. How this gesture, previously standing for victory, came to mean “peace” is yet another mystery.

    One theory is that the gesture was popularised in Japan by the US figure skater, Janet Lynn, during the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo. Although she came third in the event, and fell over on the ice, she captured the hearts of the Japanese public with her constant cheerfulness – Japanese children are also encouraged to be cheerful at all times. A peace campaigner, Lynn was photographed many times making the peace sign, and people began to copy her.

    The V-sign has now spread to young people in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea, probably due to the Japanese influence. One reason for its popularity is that it is so easy to do. Seima Sekine, in Japan Today, said, “Even when I don’t feel like I have to smile, I can easily make the V sign and show my desire for peace in a photo.”

  • 2 Justin // Mar 15, 2008 at 6:43 pm

    awesomely hilarious post, Peter! we’ve been waiting for this one.

  • 3 Shaun // Mar 15, 2008 at 6:49 pm

    The peace sign is definitely a secret sign adopted by a global underground Asian cult. It’s a conspiracy, and the use of the peace sign shows newfound membership into that cult. I dunno how else it woulda seeped into Asian culture that rapidly…

  • 4 Rich Nguyen // Mar 16, 2008 at 7:40 am

    Viet ppl don’t do peace signs. LOL. That’s definitely a Chinese, Japanese, And Korean thing. Southeast Asians don’t do that foreela.z We too hood to throw up peace signs. We throw gang sings.

  • 5 Raina // Mar 16, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    When is the obsession with white and what Asians think it means to be white gonna make the list? You know, the blaring white makeup that a lot of Asians wear, the attitude, lifestyle and mindsets that Asians THINK white people have and aspire to emulate…the ‘colonization’ of the Asian mind?

    I LOVE to see that!

  • 6 SD Steve // Mar 16, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    When I asked a colleague of mine in Taiwan what the “V” sign meant, she just looked at me and said “bunny rabbit”.

  • 7 Shaun // Mar 17, 2008 at 1:16 am

    You should do your own piece on that Raina and send it in to Peter and Justin…

  • 8 YASPY Chick // Mar 20, 2008 at 6:03 am

    You sure it isn’t a middle class kid who wants to be a rapper thing?

  • 9 Sutefanii // Apr 2, 2008 at 11:52 am

    I see that…

    my best friends….

  • 10 Sutefanii // Apr 2, 2008 at 11:52 am

  • 11 ewww // Apr 11, 2008 at 9:49 pm


  • 12 CoolDustin82 // Apr 19, 2008 at 11:57 am

    I wondered why I always saw this in Japanese anime despite the connotations of having two atomic bombs dropped on their heads. Now I know it has to do with the 1972 Olympics. Very informative.

  • 13 Steve // May 13, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    I through up my middle finger alot.

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  • 15 Guest // Jul 20, 2008 at 7:56 pm

    besides the peace sign, there is also a good thumbs up!

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  • 17 kk // Jul 26, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    no, the peace sign is never ok… it just makes you look fob

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  • 19 Tiamari // Aug 12, 2008 at 10:41 am

    Peace, brothers and sisters!

  • 20 Anonymous // Aug 28, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    what about peace signs over your mouth and your tongue sticking out

  • 21 Helen // Sep 10, 2008 at 12:36 am

    i’m pretty sure the “v” sign used to be a satanic representation of how much the other person’s sperm count is.

  • 22 Bethany // Dec 12, 2008 at 10:09 am

    Just a quick note on your historical accuracy, the V sign was used by winston churchill NOT the americans! It was a British sign for victory not an american one

  • 23 JIMMY // Jan 14, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    OMG!! a bunch of moron with peace sign, opening their mouth, pretending to sleep…….OMG!!! please ppl. it is so unnatural pose for taking picture. i feel like slapping their faces when i see it.

  • 24 Mike // Jan 14, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    This is absolutely ridiculous. “non-existent” and “chinky eye-lining”? Racist fucker!

  • 25 Anonymous // Apr 7, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    The funny thing about the \peace\ sign is that, if you perform it with the back of the hand facing the opposing party instead of the palm, it becomes an insult (at least in Britain). A few acquaintances have used this ambiguity to communicate disappointment (like the sarcastic \good job\) by first using the \peace\ sign and then turning their hand around without retracting their fingers

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  • 29 Argile // Aug 4, 2009 at 11:56 am

    Heh, I saw this all the time in Japan. Crazy!

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  • 31 mic20000 // Oct 3, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    I don’t know about everyone else, but based on what I’ve been taught the peace sign is actually a symbolic sign standing for dividing nations or social groups although thats just my opinion.

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  • 34 Brian // Mar 8, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    Actually the “cheese” comment is wrong, at least as far as Chinese people go. When taking a photo the person with the camera will often say “yi, ar, san, cheinza” not sure the spelling on the last. but it’s basically 1,2,3 smile.

  • 35 Sue Sing // May 16, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    @Rich Nguyen, but coming from Malaysia, we do that all the time! (Malaysia is in southeast asia)

  • 36 Traslochi // Jul 9, 2010 at 12:25 am

    i am really appreciating,woow very informative…..great job thank’s…!

  • 37 ---- // Jul 12, 2010 at 9:44 am

    @Rich Nguyen,
    Trying too hard don’t you think?

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  • 40 jj // Jul 20, 2010 at 9:03 am

    @Rich Nguyen, having visited family in Thailand and Vietnam I can safely say that they 100% do throw up the peace sign at every available moment! Maybe not older people, but all of the younger generations do…just FYI!

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  • 48 farmo // Jan 25, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    It’s annoying as fuck! I hate when Asian people give the peace sign when they take pictures! Don’t they realize they’re making the ABC’s look bad?

  • 49 Gnattie // Jan 31, 2011 at 12:12 am

    I know that the Japanese will sometimes make the peace sign to signify victory, as it looks like a “v.”

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  • 51 minnie // Feb 13, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    I hate when Asian people give the peace sign when they take pictures!

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  • 55 Lam // Apr 6, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    It’s interesting that you’ve tried to discern why Asian people do this, because I’m Chinese myself and I don’t even know why..However, I did find parts of this incredibly racist, for example:
    ‘Even an asian smile can be mistaken for their chinky eye lining.’ and ‘ asians outline their grinning chins with a “V” sign to draw attention away from their non-existant eyes. ‘

    That’s an extremely prejudiced stereotype and you’ve used it in a cruel way that isn’t even funny. Asian’s eyes aren’t really that small.
    It’s a nicely detailed post but it’s definitely made less effective by the racist comments thrown in. Sorry!

  • 56 POWinCA // Aug 18, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    Any gesture produced without conscious thought of a practical purpose should be discouraged and derided as brainless conformism.

    Someone suggested sarcastically that it’s the result of mind control. I would suggest that’s actually not far from the truth.

    Video games, manga, hip hop music and other popular activities are weapons of mass mind destruction. Today on the train I saw this Asian kid with yellow-colored hair and saggy jeans listening to hip hop and practicing his dance moves. I’m sure his parents are proud he’s descended to the lowest level of cultural evolution for a developed country.

  • 57 Ching Chong Ping Pong // Oct 2, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    Fuck you! I have two eyes! That’s why why we give the two sign! Two!

  • 58 Dave // Oct 7, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    So is this supposed to be a genuinely informative celebration of Asian culture and habits, or a racist site? I was enjoying it until you felt the need to mention ‘their chinky eye lining.’ Why spoil things with needless racism?

  • 59 Peter // Oct 10, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    It’s written by the Asian community, as well as readers just like you.

  • 60 Kathie // Oct 30, 2011 at 10:36 am

    I actually do think about 90% Asian do this, trolololz, I’m vietnamese and I sometimes do it,even my cousins! I rarely see it in my school tho.. well its full of americans that just don’t do it? We only do it for silence or bunny ears on someone

  • 61 Robert // Nov 9, 2011 at 8:17 am

    I am Asian (Chinese specifically) in my mid 40′s and immigrated to Canada when I was 2. Even though the civil rights movements had occurred over 10 years before my arrival I was still facing considerable what they called “harmless” racism by other cultures who felt it is all in fun to describe chinky-eyes, chinaman, nipper, gook, slant-eyes. It’s sad that we as a collective Asian community simply grin and bear it for the most part and even more sadly openly display this type of ignorance to each other. It sanctifies these slurs, especially in the way it is presented in this otherwise good blog. It gives grounds for self-entitled people in “power” positions to “slip-up” or openly slander:

    Rod Wheeler

    Rosie O’Donnell

    and lets not forget Miley Cyrus…

    Or even worse, it allows some of us to hate ourselves or the culture we came from in a rush to imitate perceived North American culture. See pundit Michelle Malkin

    Michelle Malkin

    she is Philippino but married a white guy, thus the Malkin name but acts like a poster child for racists, labeling Asian Civil Rights groups as ethnic grievance mongers. Don’t buy into the idea that we are reclaiming these terms as the Blacks tried to do with the N… word. Other cultures strongly avoid using that word, even demanding public apologies of politicians and celebs and the usual donations to the NAACP (an African-American Civil Rights Group). We get Rosie’s and Miley’s “Loosen up! I don’t mean anything by it.”

    And by the way the peace sign is a generational thing. Didn’t exist among Chinese, Koreans and a Japanese Girl I knew that immigrated here prior to 1988. Probably just the same phenom as the one rolled up pant leg syndrome – no meaning behind it other than they thought it was cool.

  • 62 sussy gaviola // Mar 17, 2012 at 10:38 pm

    Seriously, the author’s stereotyping! Not all asians have squinty eyes, yellow skin and speak the same language! DARN. you are talking about NORTH EAST ASIANS all the time. get your words and thoughts right. you talk like you know everything ;) please at least be open-minded or do some research of what is really an “ASIAN” is about. We are multi-cultural. BE SPECIFIC. these make other race confused and stereotypes.

  • 63 katie // May 1, 2012 at 4:04 pm

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