In our blog we often present German and European heraldry. Today we want to show you some Japanese Coat of Arms. They are called mon and the translation of it is symbol or emblem. As the western and European crests, knights originally used mons at the battlefield to identify foe and friend. Today it is a symbol for families and their belonging.
Commonalities of Mons and Western Crests
- Mons are intergenerational symbols of families and several rules determine hwo to pass
- Either a family accepts a mon or someone grants it
- In the Heian-period generally the nobility had mons, from the Edo-era on however, also the commoners
- There are also talking mons depicting the meaning of the family’s surname
- You cannot bear a Coat of Arms unlawfully
Differences of Mons and Western Crests
- Contrary to the complex design of western Coat of Arms, mons are very simple. Mostly it is a circle with an animal or a plant.
- Japanese mons do not have crests since the samurai did not bear them to keep both hands free. Therefore, they painted the mon on their helmet, cape, breastplate, saddle or horse blanket.
- Often mons are not unique. This results from the simplicity of Japanese crests. Only little details help to distinguish different mons.
- In Japan people can also bear universal Coat of Arms. Their name is Tori-mon or Muda-mon. They are not designed for a special person himself.
- Spouses do not bear the same mon. The wife always bears the mon of her male tribe.
- Mons are monochromatic whereas the color is not that much relevant. It is possible to find the same crest in different colors.
Kikumon – the Japanese Family Coat of Arms of the emperor
The kikumon is the most popular mon. The Japanese emperor and his family bear this mon and it symbolizes the sovereignty of the Japanese state. It has the shape of a Chrysanthemum with 16 blossoms. Kikumon means Coat of Arms of the Chrysanthemum in Japanese. The Meiji Constitution earmarked the kikumon for the sole use of the Tennō. This is why members of the imperial family used a slightly changed version of the original kikumon. Even though it is not officially the imperial seal of Japan, largely instituions use it at such. You can even see it on the Japanese passport.
The Mitsubishi Logo
Perhaps each of you has ever seen the mon below. It is the logo of the automobile manufacturer Mitsubishi. The name comes from the Japanese words mitsu(=three) and hishi(=water chestnut/rhombus), so literally it means three rhombuses.
Often the h in the middle is pronounced as a b in Japan. This is why the combination from mitsu and hishi is spelled Mitsubishi.
The founder of Mitsubishi, Yataro Iwasaki, chose the Mon for his company. It is formed from the three leaves of the Coat of Arms of the Tosa-Clan (his first employer) and the three layered rhombus from the mon of the Iwasaki-family.