Kamon, Family Crests

Kamon (家紋) is a collective term for family emblems in Japan to express lineages, pedigrees, tiltes of the family. When I hear the term Kamon, it reminds me of the famous history TV drama, on which villans prostrate on the ground as the disguised Shogun (将軍) reveals his Kamon to them.

Most of Japanese families have Kamon which are handed down from their ancestors and use it for their formal attires of ceremonial occasions. The Kamon is usually printed on Kimono, however, sometimes people have their Kamon printed on handkerchiefs or pocket bags too. Nowadays, many young people get curious more about Kamon via internet and many of them explore their Kamon on specialized web pages.

Most of Kamon designs consist of plants or flowers. As an exception, the Kamon of my family is called Marunikuyo (丸に九曜) which represents stars. Eight small stars surround the big center star. Other than Marunikuyo, there are interesting Kamon such as Eirakutsuho (永楽通宝), and famous Rokumonsen (六文銭) for Sanada (真田) clans, both represent money.

In Western Japan, there is a variation of Kamon called Jomon (女紋) which only female can use. Some of them are handed down from mothers to daughters, and some are arranged so as to look feminine.

Every time I see Kimono with Kamon at tea ceremonies or formal occasions, I cannot help realizing the profound sense of Japanese beauty which resides even in such a small emblem.

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