Photo Etiquette

I’m sure you’ve probably noticed the typical pose in a Japanese photo….but did you know it’s contagious?!

The first part of our trip we were behaving like normal British tourists, saying ‘cheese’,


then gradually we started making the peace sign- Bill caught it first.


Then me…


Then both of us (well you have to when you’ve queued with the Japanese and one of them offers to take your photo!) :


Everyone does it… from film crews


to Drummer Girls


And in fact Bill got a very serious case of it- He just couldn’t help himself:


Note how Bill even does it with both hands while drinking Japanese beer!
Why do the Japanese make this sign?
It was first noticed in photos in the late 1960s. The two-finger V peace sign was a symbol of opposition to the war in Vietnam made by  the hippies in America. Japan also had a hippie community in the Shinjuku area of Tokyo.  It is thought that it became popularised in adverts for cameras but also maybe as a result of an American figure skater named Janet Lynn in the 1972 Olympics in Japan who fell during her performance, ending her hope of a medal. Instead of the expected tears, she smiled. The Japanese audience were amazed because it went against their social norm of ‘saving face’ and Janet Lynn became famous overnight and during subsequent media tours she often flashed the peace sign.
In the UK we say “cheese” during a photo which makes us look like we are smiling. The peace sign is like a visual ‘cheese’ to tell the photographer that you’re ready and, as I realised after a while, it gives you something to do with your hands.
Now we’re back, however, the habit seems to have worn off!
Here we are in a photo taken last weekend in Prague…tourists….but back to normality!




One thought on “Photo Etiquette

  1. Ah! It looks like a naff gesture, so it’s interesting to read how it originated and them evolved to become fully owned and associated with the Japanese. Cultural enlightening!


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