Cushion with Japanese flag, WWII plane at museum gift shop raises eyebrows

This article is more than 12 months old

A cushion featuring a Japanese World War II dive bomber set against the backdrop of a crimson-red Japanese flag, and bearing the words "I love Singapore" and another line below stating "Air Force Museum" has raised some eyebrows.

The one-off piece had been retailing at the Air Force Museum's gift shop next to the Paya Lebar Air Base for about five years.

A photo of the cushion, with a $15 price tag, was posted on online discussion website Reddit Singapore yesterday morning.

The thread was titled: "Hey how should we commemorate our air defence history?"

It got 11 comments, including one remarking that the design was "crappy".

The photo was later removed.

Speaking to The Straits Times yesterday, the gift shop's co-owner Steve Soh, 39, said he had printed the cushion for a walk-in customer who never returned to collect it.

He recalled being asked to download the image from the Internet.

His approximately five-year-old souvenir shop also runs a customisation service, printing personalised mugs, water bottles and cushions.

Mr Soh said: "We only have one such cushion. The customer paid us a deposit of $12 but never came back to collect it. He didn't leave a number either."

He then decided to put it on display, pricing it at $15.

"Nobody who has come in to our shop has voiced out on this issue. Perhaps I wasn't sensitive enough. I did not think it would be controversial or problematic. To me, it is just another (piece of) merchandise."

He said the shop is allowed to "operate independently" despite being housed at the museum that is run by the Republic of Singapore Air Force.

The museum, however, requires them to dedicate about half of the gift shop's paraphernalia to airplane-related products, he added, pointing out that the cushion is the only product in his shop featuring Japanese symbols and images.

Mr Soh said he is pulling the cushion off the shelf and will not be selling it anymore.

He added: "We will still allow customers to make personal customisation requests, but I will share with them the implications of potentially controversial designs. We won't display them in our shop either."

ST understands that the shop owner has been advised by the Air Force Museum on the sensitivity of displaying and selling such items.