Saturday, February 02, 2008

Family crests

This week I took Choco for a walk at the nearby cemetary and took some pictures of the family crests that are carved into the grave stones. Mon or Kamon can be seen on the rooftops of old Japanese tile roofs and at the gates to old farmhouses. Nowadays though I don't think people pay much attention to their Mon since I noticed on the gravestones that there were different surnames that seemed to use the same Mon. Occasionally you will see Mon at the entrance to sushi shops or a family owned business will have their Mon printed on the packaging of their product, but the only other place Mon are regularly seen are on the formal black kimonos that are worn at weddings and funerals.

The most famous Mon is the Imperial family's crest which is representative of the chrysanthemum and I think by law it is not allowed to be used by any organization except for the imperial family (because it is also the national emblem.) There is also a special Mon that only the prime minister may use (but I guess that's not really a family crest since it doesn't change whenever there is a new prime minister.)

(picture from the Internet)

And this is the Watanabe family crest. Tetsu's father must have had it made specially and it looks like it has been machine embroidered in gold thread on a purple background. As our house is pretty Western in appearance I've never put it out where people can see it and it sits in a corner of one of the rooms against the wall. And since I asked Tetsu what the symbol means and he didn't know I guess he doesn't have any great attachment to his family crest either. But I can't see us tossing something like this either so it will stay up in its corner. (Whoops. There I am reflected in the glass!)


anne bebbington said...

Interesting, the contrast between your traditional FIL, with his pride in the family crest and his insistence that your MIL always wore kimonos, and Tetsu, just one generation later. How the world has changed over the last few decades. Beautiful designs though all of them

The Quilter said...

It's beautiful. Regardless of whether your house is western, it could be displayed for its attractiveness alone. (We quilters and needlewomen are always swooning over beautiful embroidery, even machine work.)

Very interesting that your husband doesn't know the meaning. What did his ancestors do for a living? Are family crests related to employment?

Perhaps there a reference book that helps you decipher family crests, like you find for european family crests (like, lion mean this, shield means that, kind of thing).

Shelina said...

There are so many people here trying to get family crests, and wind up getting scammed by people who just lie and tell them this or that crest is theirs.
I'm wondering if it goes by surnames, so your daughter can't use it when she gets married, or if it family, so she can. That might explain different surnames using the same crest. Or someone got scammed.
Have you asked your MIL what the meaning is? Maybe she knows.