Pink rarely appears in nature, which may explain why the color only entered the English language as a noun at the end of the 17th century. But in other languages, the shade remains difficult to pin down. “In Japan, at least seven different terms are used for pink shades,” says Bauhaus-Universität Weimar fine art professor Barbara Nemitz, co-author of Pink: The Exposed Color in Contemporary Art and Culture (2006).
Pink’s cultural significance can also vary widely between countries. In contemporary Japanese culture, says Nemitz, pink is perceived as a masculine and mournful color that represents “young warriors who fall in battle while in the full bloom of life.” In Germany, pink is “rosa”—a hue that’s “bright, soft, peaceful, sweet, and harmless,” she explains.
In 2004, Nemitz conducted a workshop in which she asked students from Tokyo to select a shade they felt encompassed the color “pink.” The swatches proved entirely different across cultures, with the Japanese participants favoring the cooler shades to the European penchant for warmer tones.