Kamon – The coats of arms of Japanese clans

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Kamon refers to a coat of arms used in Japan to indicate one's origins; that is, a family's lineage, ancestry, and status from ancient times. It is also referred to simply as mondokoro [紋所], monshou [紋章] or mon [紋].

There are over 20,000 kamons individuals in Japan. Coats of arms are often called Family Crests. Kamon is a unique culture and tradition that you can only find in Japan.

What does Kamon mean?

The word Kamon [家紋] means “house” [] and “emblem” []. Kamon are Japanese heraldic symbols or clan (family) emblems. O mon It has a similar function to the coats of arms of European heraldry.

It is estimated that there are over two thousand family emblems derived from the standard Kamon. Kamon patterns are usually circular geometric shapes. They can also have natural elements such as animals, plants, flowers, trees, objects and others.

Celestial elements such as the moon and stars or religious elements such as buddhist swastika they are also inspirations for the emblems. Through kamon it was possible to distinguish the origin, history and social status of a Japanese family.

Today the term “kamon” it is also used to indicate a person's origins. From family lineage, bloodline, ancestry and status from ancient times. 

Origin and history of Kamon in Japan

The emblems are believed to have appeared in the Asuka period under foreign influence. At the Heian Period the nobility began to put their own coat of arms on their ox carts and walked the streets, showing their coat of arms. It later became popular among nobles and several coats of arms were created.

The coats of arms of samurai warriors were created later than those of the nobility at the end of the Heian period, when the conflict between the Heiji clan and the Genji clan became more violent. Crests were soon used to identify enemies and allies.

The emblems were displayed on flags called sashimono [指物] that were carried on soldiers' backs. On horses some cavalry soldiers wore a banner known as umajirushi [馬印].

As the ages passed, the kamon stood out even more, being displayed even in traditional clothes. Mon were usually attached to the back and front of the shoulders and below the glue on the back.

Kamon - the coats of arms of Japanese clans

The use of Kamon among the samurai and the nobility

The kamon is an example of the culture of Japan itself, which has been used to this day. One kamon was created to represent the identity of a family, clearly revealing the family name of its owner.

Later, the samurai and the nobility made use of these coats of arms. Each group consists of a representative coat of arms and its variations. Eventually, they spread and were used in tombs, furniture, and ships.

It was natural for coats of arms to be placed on weapons as katana and kacchu However, although there were no limitations, the unrestricted use of coats of arms of other families often caused friction.

Especially when using the coat of arms of a higher class, such as a daimyo or shogun created more friction. So there was an unstated rule to avoid using the crest that was already used by the high-class clan or family as much as possible.

Kamon - the coats of arms of Japanese clans

Facts about Kamon in Japan

To this day, Kamon is used in many places in Japanese society. The Mitsubishi and Yamaha logos originate from a kamon, as many other food and other product companies have their logos based on a kamon.

There are exclusive kamon for certain people, and a single kamon can be used by different families with the same surname. Today these coats of arms can even be found on flags of Japanese cities and provinces.

Perhaps this is a key factor in the japanese flag be a simple red circle.

You can find your family crests and emblems by surname and other regional features using specialized websites like kisetsumimiyori.com and myoji-yurai.net.

Kamon
Kamon of samurai clans

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