Japanese Heraldry

A mon is a heraldic device that was originally used as a identifying symbol by nobility on the battle field during the Heian period (785 – 1185).  Mon refers to any heraldic symbol while Kamon and Mondokoro are family symbols.

Imperial kamonMon were generally simple and monotone in colour though any combination of colours could be used.  Simple shapes or things such as flowers or animals were used and usually framed with a ring.  There weren’t many rules for designing a mon and the only design that was illegal was the Imperial Kamon – a chrysanthemum with sixteen petals.


Mon are displayed on nobori, a rectangular banner carried in battle and sashimono, small banner worn on the back of warriors.  Mon were also worn on clothing in one of two ways – three places; one on the back and one on each side of the front of a kimono or haori or five places; one on the back, one on each side of the front and one on each sleeve.  Five places rule was usually for formal occasions.  During the later half of the Heian period when long sleeves become popular, large mon were placed on the bottom front of each sleeve.

Japanese honourific titles

For the Japanese, honourifics are very important and a variety are used depending on who is talking to who and in what context.  Not attaching a honourifics means one of two things; one, you know the person very well and for a long time or they are family or two, you are being very rude and disrespectful.  But possibility ignorant, if you are a foreigner.

San(さん):  this is the most common.  It can be translated as Mr or Ms.  When in doubt use san.

Kun(くん):  kun is used mostly for young boys but it can be used for girls.  Parents, sibling or friends (of the same age) use it most.  Older students also attach kun after the names of younger students.

Chan(ちゃん):  it’s like kun except for girls but can be used for boys.  It is also used for pet (animal) names.

Sama(さま):  like san only the formal version.  Used to address higher ranking people and business context or to show respect.

Dono(どの):  dono is slightly more formal than sama and also means ‘lord’.  It is used between people of the same high station as well.  It is used very seldom in modern Japan.

Senpai(せんぱい):  Upper classmen are called senpai by lower classmen.  Lower classmen are kouhai (こうはい) but never called by that name.  Sometime senpai is romanised as sempai,  this is because n is pronounced as m before b, f, p and m.

Sensei(せんせい):  anyone who is a professional such as doctors, lawyers and teachers can be called sensei.  Like senpai, sensei can be a suffix or title.

みどり かえで

Midori Kaede





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