Mon (emblem)

Mon (), also monshō (紋章), mondokoro (紋所), and kamon (家紋), are Japanese emblems used to decorate and identify an individual, a family, or (more recently) an institution or business entity. While mon is an encompassing term that may refer to any such device, kamon and mondokoro refer specifically to emblems used to identify a family. An authoritative mon reference compiles Japan's 241 general categories of mon based on structural resemblance (a single mon may belong to multiple categories), with 5116 distinct individual mon (it is however well acknowledged that there exist lost or obscure mon that are not in this compilation).[1][2]

The devices are similar to the badges and coats of arms in European heraldic tradition, which likewise are used to identify individuals and families. Mon are often referred to as crests in Western literature, another European heraldic device similar to the mon in function.

The mon of the Toyotomi clan, now used as the emblem of the Japanese Government; representing the Paulownia.
The mon of the Tokugawa shōguns—three hollyhock leaves inside a circle


Kamon himeji
Various kamon on display at Himeji Castle

Mon may have originated as fabric patterns to be used on clothes in order to distinguish individuals or signify membership of a specific clan or organization. By the twelfth century, sources give a clear indication that heraldry had been implemented as a distinguishing feature, especially for use in battle. It is seen on flags, tents, and equipment.

Like European heraldry, mon were initially held only by aristocratic families, and were gradually adapted by commoners. On the battlefield, mon served as army standards, even though this usage was not universal and uniquely designed army standards were just as common as mon-based standards (cf. sashimono, uma-jirushi). Mon were also adapted by various organizations, such as merchant and artisan guilds, temples and shrines, theater troupes and even criminal gangs. In an illiterate society, they served as useful symbols for recognition.

Japanese traditional formal attire generally displays the mon of the wearer. Commoners without mon often used those of their patron or the organization they belonged to. In cases when none of those were available, they sometimes used one of the few mon which were seen as "vulgar", or invented or adapted whatever mon they wished, passing it on to their descendants. It was not uncommon for shops, and therefore shop-owners, to develop mon to identify themselves.

Rules regulating the choice and use of mon were somewhat limited, though the selection of mon was generally determined by social customs. It was considered improper to use a mon that was known to be held by someone else, and offensive to use a mon that was held by someone of a high rank. When mon came into conflict, the lower-ranked person sometimes changed their mon to avoid offending their superior. The mon held by the ruling clans of Japan, such as Tokugawa's hollyhock mon and the Emperor's chrysanthemum mon, were legally protected from unauthorized usage.

Occasionally, patron clans granted the use of their mon to their retainers as a reward. Similar to the granting of the patron's surnames, this was considered a very high honor. Alternatively, the patron clan may have added elements of its mon to that of its retainer, or chosen an entirely different mon for them.


There are no set rules in the design of a mon. Most consist of a roundel encircling a figure of plant, animal, man-made, natural or celestial objects, all abstracted to various degrees. Religious symbols, geometric shapes and kanji were commonly used as well.

Similar to the blazon in European heraldry, mon are also named by the content of the design, even though there is no set rule for such names. Unlike in European heraldry, however, this "blazon" is not prescriptive—the depiction of a mon does not follow the name—instead the names only serve to describe the mon. The pictorial depictions of the mon are not formalized and small variations of what is supposed to be the same mon can sometimes be seen, but the designs are for the most part standardized through time and tradition.

The degree of variation tolerated differ from mon to mon as well. For example, the paulownia crest with 5-7-5 leaves is reserved for the prime minister, whereas paulownia with fewer leaves could be used by anyone. The imperial chrysanthemum also specifies 16 petals, whereas chrysanthemum with fewer petals are used by other lesser imperial family members.

Japanese heraldry does not have a cadency or quartering system, but it is not uncommon for cadet branches of a family to choose a slightly different mon from the senior branch. Each princely family (Shinnōke), for example, uses a modified chrysanthemum crest as their mon. Mon holders may also combine their mon with that of their patron, benefactor or spouse, sometimes creating increasingly complicated designs.

Mon are essentially monochrome; the color does not constitute part of the design and they may be drawn in any color.

Modern usage

Mitsubishi logo
Logo of Mitsubishi ("three diamonds, in the form of a mon

Virtually all modern Japanese families have a mon, but unlike before the Meiji Restoration when rigid social divisions existed, mon play a more specialized role in everyday life. On occasions when the use of a mon is required, one can try to look up their families in the temple registries of their ancestral hometown or consult one of the many genealogical publications available. Many websites also offer mon lookup services. Professional wedding planners, undertakers and other "ritual masters" may also offer guidance on finding the proper mon.

Mon are seen widely on stores and shops engaged in traditional crafts and specialties. They are favored by sushi restaurants, which often incorporate a mon into their logos. Mon designs can even be seen on the ceramic roof tiles of older houses. Mon designs frequently decorate senbei, sake, tofu and other packaging for food products to lend them an air of elegance, refinement and tradition. The paulownia mon appears on the obverse side of the 500 yen coin.

Items symbolizing family crafts, arts or professions were often chosen as a mon. A fan design might be chosen by a geisha. A woman may still wear her maiden mon if she wishes and pass it on to her daughters; she does not have to adopt her husband's or father's mon. Flowers, trees, plants and birds are also common elements of mon designs.[3]

Mon add formality to a kimono. A kimono may have one, three or five mon. The mon themselves can be either formal or informal, depending on the formality of the kimono. Very formal kimono display more mon, frequently in a manner that makes them more conspicuous. In the dress of the ruling class, the mon could be found on both sides of the chest, on each sleeve, and in the middle of the back. On the armor of a warrior, it might be found on the kabuto (helmet), on the do (breast plate), and on flags and various other places. Mon also adorned coffers, tents, fans and other items of importance.

As in the past, modern mon are not regulated by law, with the exception of the Imperial Chrysanthemum, which doubles as the national emblem, and the paulownia, which is the mon of the office of prime minister and also serves as the emblem of the cabinet and government (see national seals of Japan for further information). Some local governments and associations may use a mon as their logo or trademark, thus enjoying its traditional protection, but otherwise mon are not recognized by law. One of the best known examples of a mon serving as a corporate logo is that of Mitsubishi, a name meaning "three lozenges" (occasionally translated as "three buffalo nuts"), which are represented as rhombuses.[4] Another example of corporate use is the logo for the famous soy sauce maker Kikkoman, which uses the family mon of the founder,[5] and finally, the logo of music instrument/equipment and motorcycle builder Yamaha, which shows three tuning forks interlocked into the shape of a capital Y in reference to both their name and the origin of the company.[6]

In Western heraldry

Coat of Arms of Japanese Emperor (Knight of the Garter Variant)
Western arms of Akihito as a Knight of the Garter

Japanese mon are sometimes used as charges or crests in Western heraldry. They are blazoned in traditional heraldic style rather than in the Japanese style. Examples include the Canadian-granted arms of David Tsubouchi[7], and Akihito's arms as a Knight of the Garter.[8]

Gallery of representative kamon by theme

Animal motif

揚羽蝶 Agehachou

Agehanochō, the Swallowtail butterfly crest of the Taira clan

Yatagarasu A

Mythical Three-legged crow Yatagarasu

Tsuru no Maru inverted A

Crane crest of Mori clan similar to Japan Airlines

Sanba Tobi zuru inverted

Triple crane crest

Itsutsu Chidori inverted

Quintuple Chidori bird crest


Mitsu uroko, three fish-scales, of Hōjō clan


Maruni Chigai Takanoha, the crossing pair of hawk feathers in circle

Kotobuki Ebi inverted

Kotobuki Ebi Lobster emblem

Flora motif

Go-shichi no kiri crest

This paulownia flower pattern (go-shichi-no-kiri) is the symbol of the Office of the Prime Minister of Japan and Toyotomi Clan


Daki Myōga (Japanese ginger)


Gomaizasa, the five bamboo leaves of the Shofukutei Rakugo family


Maruni Mitsu(ba) Aoi, the hollyhock crest of the Tokugawa clan


Maruni Sumitate Yotsumei Circle and Four Eyelets on the Edge of the Uda Genji

Sasa Rindo

Sasarindō, the bamboo leaves and gentian flowers crest of the Minamoto clan

Sumikiri hana01

Sumikirikakuni Hanakaku

Tachi omodaka

Tachi Omodaka or Upright Threeleaf Arrowhead (Sagittaria trifolia)


Triple Pine Tree Maruni Hidari Sangaimatsu of Hira clan, member of Taira clan (Heike)

裏菊 Ura-kiku

Jūroku Uragiku, crest of the Hirohata clan

3tachibana 001

Mitsugumi Tachibana (Triple Mandarin orange)

Family crest hanawachigai

Hana Wachigai, the device of the Izumo Genji clans (Oki, Enya, Takaoka)


Matsudaira clan gold leaf emblazoned hollyhock

4hana hishi03

Yotsu Hanabishi, the emblem of the Yanagisawa clan, Matsumoto family of kabuki actors

Take ni Suzume

Sparrows and Bamboo Take ni Suzume of the Date clan

Tool motif


6 coin crest of Sanada clan

Japanese Crest Hinomaru Oogi

Hinomaru emblazoned hand fan representing Japan, crest of Satake clan

Japanese crest Tou Uchiwa

Tang Dynasty style hand fan crest

Japanese Crest Gennji kuruma

Wheel motif of Genji clan

Gion Mamori

Gion Mamori shield motif

Chigai kuginuki

Chigai Kuginuki Crowbar, the crest of former Prime Minister Taro Aso

Nakagawake kurusu

Nakagawake Kurusu (the cross of Nakagawa clan)

Kugi nuki01

Nail Puller Kuginuki

Mitsu Zaru inverted

Three cooking pot hooks

Character motif

Emblem of Aichi Prefecture

Emblem of the Aichi Prefecture, stylized hiragana of あいち (Aichi).

Emblem of Akita Prefecture

Emblem of the Akita Prefecture, stylized katakana of ア (a), the first syllable of "Akita".

Emblem of Fukuoka Prefecture

Emblem of the Fukuoka Prefecture, stylized hiragana of ふく (fuku).

Emblem of Gifu Prefecture

Emblem of the Gifu Prefecture, stylized kanji 岐 (gi).

Emblem of Nagasaki Prefecture

Emblem of the Nagasaki Prefecture, stylized romaji letter N.

Emblem of Okinawa Prefecture

Emblem of the Okinawa Prefecture, stylized romaji letter O.

Emblem of Tottori Prefecture

Emblem of the Tottori Prefecture, the symbol is meant to represent the hiragana と (to) and a bird (tori) to form a rebus of Tottori; see Japanese rebus monogram.


Chinese character motif on the mon of Ishida Mitsunari

Other motifs


Yamabishi, the crest of the Yamaguchi-gumi yakuza clan

Japanese Crest Maru ni Hidari Mannji

Hachisuka Masakatsu family crest, known as the Hachisuka swastika

Chigai hishi

Chigai Bishi

Janome shichiyo

Eyes motif Janome Shichiyo


Marunouchi Mitsuhikiryō

3ireko masu

Mitsu Irekomasu, the crest of the Ichikawa family of kabuki actors


Musubi Mitsugashiwa (a triquetra)



Alex K Hiroshima Itsukushima (color)

Emblem of Itsukushima Shrine in Hiroshima

毛利氏家紋 nagato-mitsuhoshi

Triple Star Emblem of Mitsuboshi, of Watanabe clan and Mōri clan.

Kuyo Tomoe (inverted)

9 tomoe emblem


Nitōnami Wave emblem of Saito clan

Alex K Hiroshima Hiroshima (color) 1

Origami paper crane emblem

Japanese crest Igeta

Well motif similar to crest of Sumitomo Group

Japanese crest Torii

Japanese Shinto torii shrine crest.

Ura manji

Buddhist Manji.

See also


  1. ^ 日本の家紋大全 梧桐書院 ISBN 434003102X
  2. ^ Some 6939 mon are listed here.
  3. ^ Nakano, Mas. "Family Crests - Mon". Japan Society of San Diego and Tijuana. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  4. ^ "The Mitsubishi Mark". 2008. Accessed 10 August 2008.
  5. ^ My family's kamon and history
  6. ^ Yamaha's logo
  7. ^ Tsubouchi, David Hiroshi, Public Register of Arms, Flags and Badges of Canada
  8. ^ [1] Coat of arms of Heisi Tenno, numericana

External links

Ashikaga shogunate

The Ashikaga shogunate (足利幕府, Ashikaga bakufu, 1336–1573), also known as the Muromachi shogunate (室町幕府, Muromachi bakufu), was a dynasty originating from one of the plethora of Japanese daimyō which governed Japan from 1338 to 1573, the year in which Oda Nobunaga deposed Ashikaga Yoshiaki. The heads of government were the shōgun. Each was a member of the Ashikaga clan.This period is also known as the Muromachi period. It gets its name from the Muromachi district of Kyoto. The third shōgun, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, established his residence on Muromachi Street. This residence, constructed in 1379, is nicknamed "Flower Palace" (花の御所, Hana no Gosho) because of the abundance of flowers in its landscaping.

Court uniform and dress in the Empire of Japan

The official court dress of the Empire of Japan (大礼服, taireifuku), used from the Meiji period until the end of the Second World War, consisted of European-inspired clothing in the Empire style. It was first introduced at the beginning of the Meiji period and maintained through the institution of the constitutional monarchy by the Meiji Constitution, and represented the highest uniforms in use at the time. Uniforms for members of the kazoku peerage and civil officials were officially set.

Government Seal of Japan

The Government Seal of Japan, one of the national seals, is an emblem (mon) of paulownia used by the Cabinet and the Government of Japan on official documents. It is one of various paulownia mon, collectively known as the Paulownia Seals (桐紋, kirimon) or the Paulownia Flower Seals (桐花紋, tōkamon).The 5-7 Paulownia (五七桐, go-shichi (no) kiri) is used as the official emblem of the Prime Minister of Japan. It resembles a stylized paulownia with 5-7-5 flowers.

Before the Chrysanthemum Seal was used extensively, the Paulownia Seal originally was the private symbol of the Japanese Imperial Family, from as early as the twelfth century. The Toyotomi clan, led by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, later adopted the Paulownia Seal for use as the crest of his clan. After the Meiji Restoration, the seal was eventually adopted as the emblem of the Japanese government.It is now still mainly used by the Japanese government, as a contrast to the Chrysanthemum Seal which represents the Emperor as the symbol of the sovereignty of the State, and members of the Imperial Family.

Ikeda clan

Ikeda clan (池田氏, Ikeda-shi) was a Japanese clan that claimed descent from the Seiwa Genji. In the Edo period, several of the clan's branches were daimyō families, most notably of the Tottori Domain and Okayama Domain. Takamasa Ikeda, former head of the Okayama Ikeda house was the husband of Atsuko Ikeda, fourth daughter of Emperor Shōwa.

Imperial Seal of Japan

The Imperial Seal of Japan, also called the Chrysanthemum Seal (菊紋, kikumon), Chrysanthemum Flower Seal (菊花紋, 菊花紋章, kikukamon, kikukamonshō) or Imperial chrysanthemum emblem (菊の御紋, kikunogomon), is one of the national seals and a crest (mon) used by the Emperor of Japan and members of the Imperial Family. It is a contrast to the Paulownia Seal used by the Japanese government.

Japanese mon

Japanese mon can refer to:

Japanese mon (currency) (文), used in Japan until 1870.

Mon (emblem) (紋), Japanese family heraldic symbols

The Gate or Mon (門), a 1910 novel by Natsume Sōseki

One of the gates (see Mon (architecture)) of a Buddhist temple or Shinto shrine in Japan


A jinmaku (陣幕, jinmaku) is a curtain used in setting up a military encampment commonly seen from the pre-modern era in Japan. The jinmaku were also historically known as a gunmaku (軍幕), or "military curtain".


Kamon may refer to:

Kamon (name)

Mon (emblem), also known as kamon (家紋), a Japanese heraldic symbol

Kamon, Israel, a village

List of heraldic charges

This is a list of heraldic charges. It does not cover those charges which are geometrical patterns and resemble partitions of the field; for these, see Ordinary (heraldry).

Fox-Davies (1909) in his presentation of common heraldic charges divides them into the following categories (not including ordinaries and subordinaries): the human figure, the heraldic lion, beasts (mammals), monsters, birds, fish, reptiles, insects, plants (trees, leaves, fruits and flowers), and "inanimate objects".

List of symbols

This is a list of graphical signs, icons, and symbols.

National seals of Japan

The national seals of Japan comprise the following emblems used for the purpose of authentication by the Emperor and government of Japan:

The Government Seal of Japan (also called the Paulownia Seal)

The Imperial Seal of Japan (also called the Chrysanthemum Seal)

The Privy Seal of Japan

The State Seal of Japan (also called the Great Seal of Japan)

Order of the Rising Sun

The Order of the Rising Sun (旭日章, Kyokujitsu-shō) is a Japanese order, established in 1875 by Emperor Meiji. The Order was the first national decoration awarded by the Japanese government, created on 10 April 1875 by decree of the Council of State. The badge features rays of sunlight from the rising sun. The design of the Rising Sun symbolizes energy as powerful as the rising sun in parallel with the "rising sun" concept of Japan ("Land of the Rising Sun").

The order is awarded to those who have made distinguished achievements in international relations, promotion of Japanese culture, advancements in their field, development in welfare or preservation of the environment. Prior to the end of World War II, it was also awarded for exemplary military service. Beginning in 2003, the two lowest rankings (7th and 8th classes) for the Order of the Rising Sun were abolished, with the highest degree becoming a separate order known as the Order of the Paulownia Flowers, with the single rank of Grand Cordon.While it is the third highest order bestowed by the Japanese government, it is however generally the highest ordinarily conferred order. The highest Japanese order, the Order of the Chrysanthemum, is reserved for heads of state or royalty, while the second highest order, the Order of the Paulownia Flowers, is mostly reserved for politicians.

The modern version of this honour has been conferred on non-Japanese recipients beginning in 1981 (although several foreigners were given the honor before World War II); and women were awarded the Order starting in 2003 (previously, women were awarded the Order of the Precious Crown). The awarding of the Order is administered by the Decoration Bureau of the Cabinet Office headed by the Japanese Prime Minister. It is awarded in the name of the Emperor and can be awarded posthumously.

Royal cypher

In modern heraldry, a royal cypher is a monogram-like device of a country's reigning sovereign, typically consisting of the initials of the monarch's name and title, sometimes interwoven and often surmounted by a crown. Where such a cypher is used by an emperor or empress, it is called an imperial cypher. In the system used by various Commonwealth realms, the title is abbreviated as R for rex or regina (Latin for king and queen). Previously, I stood for imperator or imperatrix (Latin words for emperor and empress) of India. The cypher is displayed on some government buildings, impressed upon royal and state documents, and is used by government departments.

Shike (novel)

For the Zen rank, see Zen masterShike is a two-volume novel published in 1981 by Robert Shea. It fictionalises and compresses Japanese history in order to incorporate the Genpei War and attempted invasion of Japan by the Mongols within the lifespans of two characters: Jebu, a warrior-monk of mixed parentage (a Mongol father and a Japanese woman) of the Order of Zinja who is a highly fictionalized version of Benkei — and Shima Taniko, the minor noblewoman with whom he falls in love on his first mission — escorting her to an arranged marriage with Prince Horigawa, a far older and extremely influential (but also extremely cunning and malevolent) nobleman. In that regard, the narrative structure of the Shike books bears a close similarity to Shea's later All Things Are Lights, which also focuses on star-crossed lovers.

The over-all story is about how Jebu and Taniko are forced onto opposing sides of a civil war, and Taniko's growth as a woman whose fate moves her from one powerful man to another, eventually becoming grandmother to a shōgun. In all, the story can be viewed as a tragedy, as Taniko's social importance and Jebu's loyalty to his order will always prevent them from truly being together.

Also focused on is the contrast of hypocrisies between the noble class and warrior class. The nobles consider samurai beneath them but act in many of the barbarous ways that they accuse them of, and the samurai are presented as ruffians of shifting loyalties, despite considering themselves to be genteel and worldly.

Shike posits a clan of grey-clad warrior monks, the "Zinja", which, it is stated by Abbot Taitaro, is related to several other secret societies throughout history, including specifically the White Lotus Society in China, the Hashishim (assassins) in the Middle East, and the Knights Templar in Europe, among others.

Through an aside in All Things Are Lights, the Zinja are therefore linked, however tenuously, to Shea's other writings on secret societies, most notably his work with Robert Anton Wilson in The Illuminatus! Trilogy.


For the prehistoric organism, see Tamga (genus)A tamga or tamgha "stamp, seal" is an abstract seal or stamp used by Eurasian nomadic peoples and by cultures influenced by them. The tamga was normally the emblem of a particular tribe, clan or family.

They were common among the Eurasian nomads throughout Classical Antiquity and the Middle Ages (including Iranians (Alans, Sarmatians, Scythians), Mongols and Turkic peoples).

Similar "tamga-like" symbols were sometimes adopted by sedentary peoples adjacent to the Pontic-Caspian steppe both in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Archaeologists prize tamgas as a first-rate source for the study of present and extinct cultures.


A tomoe (Japanese: 巴, also written 鞆絵), commonly translated as "comma", is a comma-like swirl symbol used in Japanese mon (roughly equivalent to a heraldic badge or charge in European heraldry). It closely resembles the usual form of a magatama.

The tomoe appears in many designs with various uses. The simplest, most common patterns of the device contain from one to four tomoe, and are reminiscent of similar designs that have been found in wide distribution around the world. When circumscribed in a circle, it often appears in a set of three, with this design known as the mitsudomoe (三ツ巴).



See also:

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