Bird Liveries and Logos #1 --- Japan Airlines' Tsurumaru

Bird Liveries and Logos #1 — Japan Airlines’ Tsurumaru


Callsign: JAPANAIR
Full Name: Japan Airlines Co., Ltd (日本航空株式会社)
Founded: August 1, 1951
Fleet Size: 175 aircraft
*As of May 19, 2020

Japan Airlines, commonly known as JAL, is the flag carrier of Japan. A member of the Oneworld Alliance, JAL is also rated a 5-star Airline by Skytrax. Their main hubs are Tokyo Narita (NRT), Tokyo Haneda (HND), and Kansai International (KIX). Osaka Itami (ITM) is also a major base. It owns 4 subsidiaries for domestic feeder services, as well as a low-cost carrier, and competes against ANA. What you might not know is the origin of JAL’s logo is, which is what I’ll talk about here.

A (Not Brief) History of JAL
The carrier was established in 1951, as the Japanese government needed a reliable air transportation system in the aftermath of World War II. Three years later, JAL flew its first international flight, flying from Tokyo San Francisco with stops in Wake Island and Honolulu. In the following decade, JAL’s fleet expanded from piston-powered Martin 2-0-2s and DC-6s to turbojets such as the DC-8 and the Convair 880. In the 1970s, JAL bought the 727, 747, and the DC-10 to expand its routes.

In 1987, the airline was fully privatized. Even after deregulation, JAL did pretty well, and they even helped with Boeing in the 777 design process. However, when economic recessions struck the US and the UK, JAL began posting losses in 1992. In 2001, JAL and Japan Air System (JAS) agreed to merge, becoming the sixth-largest airline in terms of the number of pax carried. In 2007, along with MALEV and Royal Jordanian, JAL entered the Oneworld Alliance.

However, not everything was good for JAL in the new Millenium. According to AirlineGeeks, the new livery was unpopular, and the quality of service was not great. After posting steep losses in 2009, JAL entered bankruptcy protection. This happened even though it was the largest airline in Asia in terms of revenue. During this time, JAL even considered ditching Oneworld for Skyteam, but that never happened.

JAL emerged from bankruptcy protection in March 2011. The airline changed its logo and livery, while also launching an aggressive marketing campaign and strengthening ties with fellow Oneworld members.

Let’s Talk About the Red-Crowned Crane


The red-crowned crane (Grus japonensis) is a large East Asian crane and is also one of the rarest cranes in the world. They can be found in Siberia (Russia), parts of China, Mongolia, the Korea Peninsula, and Japan.

Red-crowned cranes pop up in East Asian mythology and art. In South Korea and Japan, red-crowned cranes can be found on currency. In Chinese mythology, cranes symbolize longevity and immortality. Those who attain immortality are said to be carried off by cranes. In Korea, cranes symbolize longevity, purity, and peace. In Japanese mythology, cranes are said to live for 1,000 years, and grant favors in return for acts of sacrifice. They symbolize loyalty (they mate for life) and can fly high for long distances without tiring (strength). The reputation of the crane probably helped it become the logo of JAL.

Tsurumaru (literally translated: crane circle, but means more like crane inside a circle) is the current logo of JAL. The logo depicts a red crane (supposed to be a red-crowned crane) within a circle, with outstretched wings and “JAL” in white on the body of the crane.

Before 1958, JAL had used numerous logos, but they wanted a new one for the inauguration of international jet services. Jerry Huff, the creative director at a company that made JAL’s advertisements, created the logo. The logo was based on a family crest that depicted a red-crowned crane with its wings extended, similar to the Tsurumaru on JAL’s planes. About the choice, he wrote that myths concerning cranes were positive, symbolizing loyalty and strength.

Screenshot 2020-06-16 at 17.08.40


Screenshot of日本航空の歴史

The first Tsurumaru logo was used from 1959 to 1970 and was used on the DC-8. Unlike the other logos, the Tsurumaru was not depicted on the vertical stabilizer. Instead, it was placed between the door and the cockpit windows. This livery was used until 1970.



The second Tsurumaru livery was created along with the introduction of the 747 in 1970. This time, the logo was placed on the vertical stabilizer. This livery was used until 1989.

Boeing 747-100BSR/SUD


In 1989, the third Tsurumaru livery was released. The size of the Tsurumaru was reduced by 10% and the “JAL” font was changed. This livery was used until 2002.



However, in 2003, following the merger with Japan Air System, the Tsurumaru logo and livery was replaced with the Arc of the Sun livery. This livery was used until 2011.


In 2011, they brought the Tsurumaru back! Unlike the Tsurumaru liveries from before, the entire plane is white except for the logo on the vertical stabilizer. The Tsurumaru logo reverted to the original logo, with some slight modifications. The words “Japan Airlines” on the fuselage are black and look slanted. This is the current livery.



Whenever you go to an international terminal, you see a wide array of different liveries. You see Etihad’s golden splinters. You see Saudia’s palm tree with crossed swords. You see the colorful shapes on Asiana. Then, something catches your eye. In a sea of 777s, you see a 787. The livery stands out among the gaudy colors of blue, gold, and orange. Instead, it’s a simple livery. You see a red-crowned crane with its wings outstretched as if about to embark on a new journey. It’s the Tsurumaru.

Sorry if that was too long. It’s my first topic, and I wanted to put as much info as I could. Thanks for reading :)

Edit 6/21/2020
Added basic info


Wow! Very indepth

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Goddamn that was a lot of info! I always kind of preferred the Third Tsurumaru livery and the “arc of the Sun” livery instead of the most recent one.


Very nice topic! Never had an idea what the bird meant at the back of the plane, but it is trying to show customers what kind of morals, ideals, and beliefs JAL has in mind.

Quick question, would you consider Crane to be the ‘Bald Eagle’ of Japan? I know that it is the national bird, but sometimes they have different meanings.

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Not really, I guess… The crane isn’t the national bird (the green pheasant is), but it comes up in folk tales and art.
The bald eagle does comes up in Native American culture, but no-one really considers that when we think of it. The bald eagle symbolizes strength, power, the US, and all the stuff Americans like.
The crane symbolizes longevity, immortality, and… a different type of strength (the strength to live, unlike the strength to fight).
So no, the red-crowned crane isn’t the bald eagle of Japan.

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Good job man! Two beautiful birds there. You should do this one next:

this should be a daily thing!

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Yeah, I frankly agree.


So much to process!

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I’ll try to make one daily but I can’t guarantee it.
Thanks for the support :)

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@SB110, and @anon38496261



Would you rather

  • Have one thread per topic
  • Consolidate all liveries into one thread

0 voters

Same goes for the Shorts series

Spoiler for the next livery:
Screenshot 2020-07-06 at 12.18.13

I actually don’t know about JAL’s current logo. Japan’s flag gives too many interesting and minimal branding ideas to ignore. Just look at Swiss!

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Cathay Pacific maybe?

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