Thank you for visiting The Japanese Heraldry.
This website is an ongoing personal project, which aims at providing (the most possible) reliable information in English about the Japanese heraldic designs known as Kamon or Mon. This is a vast and complex field of study. Kamon are not, in fact, the unique component of the Japanese heraldic system. There also existed several distinctive categories of banners and battle standards, such as the nobori (a long vertical banner), the ō-umajirushi (great battle standard), etc. Those banners usually (but not necessarily) featured the lord’s kamon and used also a rudimentary field colour system. To people interested in this other aspect of Japanese heraldry, I recommend the excellent work of Xavid “Kihō” Pretzer, O-umajirushi. A 17th-Century Compendium of Samurai Heraldry, published in 2015.
There is already a handful of English publications on the subject of kamon. They however generally focus on featuring as many insignias as possible in a rather short number of pages (some may present 1,000 mon, others 2,000, while some publications actually showcase more than 4,000 designs!) and usually fail to explain the historical, social, symbolism or design elements that pertain to Japanese Heraldry. So far, the most researched publication on kamon in English is probably John Dower’s The Elements of Japanese Design, published in 1971. The book features over 2,000 mon in black & white thumbnails and a detailed chapter on the history and symbolism of Japanese heraldry. It also contains a useful bibliography.
If Heraldry is a serious and well researched field in Western Europe, this is not exactly the case in Japan. A few people interested in kamon publish from time to time articles or books on the topic, but there is little to no academic researches on Japanese Heraldry. A large number of publications are written by kamon enthusiasts (just like this very website) and many assertions found in those publications lack academic consensus. The closest thing to an academic publication on kamon in Japanese language is Numata Yorisuke’s Nihon Monshō Gaku, first edited in 1926 (沼田頼輔、『日本紋章学』、 新人物往来社). I actually rely heavily on Numata’s book and many information found in this website actually come from it. I do not dismiss other’s publications, but I have found that many modern books about kamon in Japan also rely heavily on it, when they don’t just plunder it, or even copy/paste verbatim from it…
I am myself by no mean an academic researcher on Japanese heraldry, but rather, like many, a mere connoisseur. As an artist and a martial artist specialised in Japanese Budo, I found somehow that Japanese heraldic designs were the perfect intersection of those two realms.
I hope you will find the information presented in this site useful.
If you are interested about contemporary art or martial arts, please visit my main website: www.baptistetavernier.com/links/