The role of kamon for samurai families
In Japan, each family has its unique family crest inherited from ancestors; this is called kamon.
Kamon was first used in the Heian period, by nobles to mark their personal belongings. The kamon culture was then spread to samurai families. However, samurais used kamon in a different way. They utilized it as a means to make themselves known, to show how well they did in the battlefield or to leave their name in the world.
That is to say, the idea of using a kamon as “a family crest to differentiate each family” or the role of kamon today began samurai families through numerous wars.
Kamon of famous samurais
Out of 20,000 kamon in Japan, there are some known to anyone and everyone; those of samurais who took an active part in the Warring States period.
Three samurais who contributed to the unification of the country are especially famous. Let us introduce you three samurais and their kamon in this article.
He is the most popular samurai lord who created the foundation for the unification of the whole country with his gifted talent.
He became known through various wars, extended his territories and was feared as the strongest samurai lord in the Warring States period.
Nobunaga Oda is famous for his dramatic life; he died because of the rebellion of his vassal who worked directly under him just before unifying the country He has become the model for various TV shows or anime, and his legend has been handed down from generation to generation.
The kamon used by the Oda family is mokko (cross-section of a gourd or a bird’s nest) mon, which is also the crest of Yasaka Jinja, the shrine famous for holding Gion Festival in Kyoto. Mokko mon looks like the shape of a bird’s nest with eggs in it when seen from the top; and for that, it signifies prosperity.
He is the first samurai lord who unified the country and had the greatest success in his life.
He was born as a son of a farmer, although became a vassal of Nobunaga Oda; he advanced in life as a samurai with his cheerful personality and natural smoothness. After Oda’s death, he carried on the will of Oda and unified Japan. He not only got to the top of samurai families, but of nobles as well. He is considered as a legendary hero.
The kamon used by the Toyotomi family is kiri (paulownia) mon. Kiri mon, along with kiku (chrysanthemum) mon, was traditionally only used by the imperial family. Kiri (paulownia) is a sacred tree where the phoenix rests on and has been valued as a special plant; it was even painted on the costume of the emperor. They say that Toyotomi has been given the sacred kiri mon by the emperor of the time when he started calling himself Toyotomi.
He is the samurai lord who put an end to the Warring States period and created the foundation of the peaceful period which lasted for 265 years. He is the ruler of the Warring States period, and the successful pioneer who created the Edo shogunate. His story might not be as dramatic as that of Oda or Toyotomi, but every Japanese knows that he changed the way the country was and ended countless wars in Japan, with having sound principles and talented vassals.
The kamon used by the Tokugawa family is aoi (mallow) mon. Aoi mon is originally the crest for Kamo Jinja (Kamigamo and Shimogamo Jinja), the shrines in Kyoto; all the shrines which have relation with Kamo Jinja also use this mon. The mallow leaves always look up to the sun and are favored as an auspicious sign.
Kamon associated with samurai families
Strong samurai lords who left their names in the history of Japan are admired and respected to this day. Kamon used by them are seen in a special light and maintain higher values.
Let us introduce you the wishes or the hopes these samurai lords put in their kamon.
Tachibana (Japanese Citrus) Mon
The kamon used by Naomasa Ii, the famous loyal vassal of Ieyasu Tokugawa, was a tachibana mon.
Evergreen tachibana (Japanese inedible citrus) is the symbol for “eternity”. Trees endure falling snow and grow well even in winter; for that, Japanese people often refer to people with dignity, virtue and modesty as “tachibana-like”.
Kikusui (Chrysanthemum and Water) Mon
The kikusui mon was used by Masashige Kusunoki, the righteous samurai lord who contributed to the overthrow of the Kamakura shogunate and stayed loyal to the Emperor Godaigo till his death.
Kusunoki himself arranged the kiku (chrysanthemum) mon given to him by the emperor to create this kikusui mon.
The beautiful design is widely cherished as one of the traditional patterns.
Katabami (Wood Sorrel) Mon
Katabami mon was used by samurai lords of the Warring States period, such as Motochika Chosogabe who ruled the Shikoku area or Shigetada Sakai, the loyal vassal of Ieyasu Tokugawa. Wood sorrel is prolific and for that, it was loved mainly by the samurai families; they believed that this plant signified prosperity.
Myoga (Japanese Ginger) Mon
It is not that myoga mon was used by some famous samurai lord but it has always had a strong relation with gods and this crest was popular among samurai families. It was believed that this crest could use the gods’ power to protect them.
It is said that there were more than 70 samurai families who used myoga mon as their family crest all over Japan.
Kamon, used for a long time by fearless samurai lords, is filled with so much drama that we cannot possible share all the details here. Why not wear a kamon as a jewelry with pride?
We sell fashionable silver jewelry which arranges kamon in a modern way.
Bracelets are especially recommended for men, and not only women!
Kamon silver jewelry will connect your soul to that of samurai lords from hundreds of years ago.