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Academia has wised up to marketing, as seen in this title evoking botanical butchery. Far from carnivorous mischief, this scholarly work shows how state propaganda changes the meaning of cultural symbols.

Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney, a professor of anthropology at the University Of Wisconsin, compares fascist regimes in Japan and Germany, with a focus on symbol usage in the run-up to World War II. She cites various associations of cherry blossoms in Japanese history — from love and youth to impermanence and debauchery, even madness — to show how everyday symbols can be ambiguous. By the 1930s, the blossoms “marched with the military” as a symbol of sacrifice for the Emperor — a nationalist hijack aided by their opacity. When a cherry blossom was painted onto each tokkotai (suicide fighter plane), most pilots were unaware that the short-lived petals now symbolized their own death.

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