Origin of Kamon (Family Crest)

Sashiko stitched kamonsThe origin of Kamon seams to go all the way back to 900 years ago in Heian Era. The history tells that Saionji, a court noble, used Tomoe (a comma-shaped design) as their crest, and it was decided as a mark on oxcart for high personage. The use of this mark soon be expanded and was used to mark on furniture, dishes and all kind of belongings. This custom has spread in the noble class and it gradually became the crest to each noble family.

One of my favorite motifs to use in Sashiko are family crests (Kamon in Japanese). They are very compact and suitable for adding partially to any projects.

butterfly family crest

Butterfly

Crane Family crest

Crane

Pine family crest

Pine

This crest started to be used among Samurai in Kamakura Era in much more practical purpose. It was so very important to distinguish between the enemy and the ally and Mon was clearly marked on their flags for this particular purpose. Upper class Samurai also used his crest on his tent on the battle field.

The family crest for Samurai was quite different from its elegant design of court nobles. Samurai’s mon should be easy to draw and easy to distinguish from the distance.

Shimazu kamon family crest Jyuji Shimazu used a simple Jyuji (cross). There are many meanings for this mark; one says that they are a set of chopsticks that was used to celebrate to take the field, the other says that the mark represents two dragons, or it is simply a symbol of Christianity.
Ashikaga kamon Futa-hiki-ryou Ashikaga used Futa-Hiki-Ryou, which is created by two lines. It was said to represent Dragon.

When Edo Era (1603 to 1868) with Tokugawa Shogun approached, which consider being a peaceful era, the meaning of the mon has shifted from using in a battle field to be more fashionable meaning and recognition. It was adopted among commoners such as merchant, artisan guilds, temples and shrines, theatre troops and even Yakuza (Japanese gangs).

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One Response to “Origin of Kamon (Family Crest)”

  • gepa5:

    Very beautiful work! My grenomdthar used to have good’ aprons. They were finer materials, and she wore them for serving the food after it was prepared usually at holidays or special dinners. She had an everyday apron that covered more and was more durable that she wore in the kitchen. When she was done cooking, she’d just take that off and put on her fresh good’ apron to cover her skirt and look great.

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