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Kamon: Japanese family crests

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. 

 

In Europe the coat of arms identifies an individual, while in Japan the Kamon represents a house

The origin of the Japanese family mon goes back to the eleventh century. Each of the high ranking officers of the day began using a specific textile designs on their most formal wear, to be worn at the Imperial Court by all courtiers.

When the Heian period ended and the samurai warrior class took over the government, at the end of the twelfth century, the warriors used their own emblems on their banners, flags, weapons and hanging screens to identify their camps and headquarters in the time of war. The warriors, who recognized that they were less cultured than the nobles, copied with admiration what the courtiers did.  And in the Edo period, Kamon started to be used by the general public as well.

 

A mon makes a garment a formal one, suitable for formal occasions. It can have one, three or five mon; the more mon it has, the more formal the occasion it is deemed suitable for. 

A family may choose a mon that is associated with their family (kamon) or just opt for one they like instead. Women are not obliged to adopt their husbands’ family mon, they may wear their maiden mons, called onna mon. There are hundreds symbols used in mon and many variations of each. 

 

At the Kompira Kabuki held in Kagawa Prefecture, lanterns depicting the Kamon of the actors in the cast are hung from the ceiling. Traditional Japanese theater called "Kabuki" is performed at this theater, which is the oldest playhouse in Japan.

 

 


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