The story behind our men's kimono 'Family Crest'

By The Kimono Company on 31/10/2014

Family crest banner

One of our most popular men's kimonos is 'Family Crest' (shown above), a striking geometric design that includes a number of intriguing heraldic-like emblems. These family crests have a centuries-old tradition in Japan, starting with the nobility in feudal times, but then adopted by samurai warriors and later by commoners, continuing in popular use right up to the present day.

Our 'Family Crest' kimono displays six different crests, which we explain below. But first, a few words about this Japanese tradition.

The first known family crests (or kamon) date from the eighth century, when nobles at the Imperial court used them as badges of identity, much like the coats of arms in European heraldic tradition.

In the 15th century, crests were useful to samurai warriors for distinguishing friend from foe on the battlefield (and were therefore made simple and easy to recognise). By the 17th century, family crests were widely used as identifying symbols on costumes and uniforms by tradesmen guilds, temples, kabuki actors and even courtesans. The tradition still thrives: the Mitsubishi company logo, for example, is derived from the family crests of its two founding families, transforming oak leaf and water chestnut symbols into a simple three-diamond emblem:

Mitsubishi logo and family crests(The origins of the Mitsubishi logo)

Up to 20,000 family crests have been documented, and any Japanese family is entitled to adopt their favourite from an enormous number of patterns, usually related to plants, birds or animals.

Today, Japanese parents still dress their new-born babies in costumes with kamon crests when taking them to a shrine, and kimonos worn during coming-of-age ceremonies also feature crests.

Here are the crests found on our 'Family Crest' kimono:

three family crests

(L to R:) Wild orange, Hollyhock and Bird Nest crests. Hollyhock was the crest of shogun rulers for over 250 years.

  another three family crests on kimono

(L to R:) Cart Wheels, Gentian and Wood Sorrel crests. As a fast-growing weed, wood sorrel is a popular symbol of fertility. It was the crest of a 16th century samurai warlord.

More information about our own 'Family Crest' men's cotton kimono can be found on The Kimono Company's Family Crest product page.

Tags: japanese kimono | men's kimono | family crest | crest | symbol | design | tradition | samurai

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