As modernization continues to assimilate other cultures into one global culture, Japan is battling over the preservation of its traditions; and one of these traditions is the use of the family crest (kamon) and the incorporation of it into their daily lives.
The use of crest or symbols in Japan to represent kinship has continued to decline over the years. However, the battle according to Japan’s crest masters has just begun as they intend to keep this tradition for many years.
Before Japan opened its doors to modernity and globalization, every family in the nation had their own family crest. However, during the Nara Period, the family crest were only exclusive to the nobles of the Imperial court. Eventually, the use of badges were extended to samurai warriors.
During the Edo Period (1603-1867), most men started putting the designs of their emblem in their kimono. The Genroku era (1688-1704) was considered to be the golden age of the Japan family crest. As the Meiji era (1868-1912) approached, the emperor required everyone (including the commoners who had no family names) in Japan to have a kamon. Japanese had the freedom to choose a design or they could also have a crest design originally created for them.
At present, there are at least 20,000 family crests in the country, not to mention the others who would have used the kamon in this generation. Kamon motifs extend from plants and animals to celestial bodies.
Built in 1910, the company, Kyogen is one of the oldest surviving family crest business in Japan with Shoryu Hatoba as the third generation owner. Mr. Hatoba shared that during the earlier times, some warriors preferred the design that represents victories such as the omodaka (arrowhead) and dragonflies.
However, as the years go by many Japanese pay little attention to the details about the significance of their family crest. Also, because there are probably fewer people wearing a kimono these days, this makes it more difficult to appreciate the beauty of the painted kamon. Hence, there is a continuous decline in the industry of creating family crests. Add to that the fact that other people who used to be engaged in the kamon trade have switched into different businesses.
Mr. Shoryu Hatoba is seemingly one of the endangered species of Japan in the field of kamon artistry. He is the third generation owner of the Kyogen company located in Ueno District in Tokyo. Together with his son Yohji, they are determined to keep the tradition of kamon alive.
Before Mr. Hatoba became a kamon master, he worked as an apprentice for five years under a kamon craftsman. Later, he decided to establish his company Kyogen. In his determination to keep the kamon tradition alive, he partnered with a diverse genre of corporations and creators that features kamon designs on every product. He also aims to immortalize kamon designs by featuring such into paintings and pass on his knowledge to the future generation as he believed that it would be such a shame to lose the tradition that his forefathers have kept for so many years.