Unlike English heraldry, which had an ornate system for describing heraldic devices that became divorced from the normal language, Japanese mon are named using simple phrases using reasonably standard Japanese for the time.1 The mon is named as its primary element, possibly prefixed with modifiers indicating its count, enclosure, style, or other characteristics. In some cases, the enclosure or style may itself has modifiers. Here is an example of a mon used by Inaba Masanari in the late 16th century: 隅切り角に三の字 or “sumi-kiri kaku ni san no ji”, which translates to “in a corner-cut square, the character ‘three’ ”.(SH:54)

These descriptive names lead to two ways mon can differ: they can have different names, or they can have the same name but be drawn differently acheter viagra allemagne. Different members of a family might use minor variations on the family mon, and different families that happened to use the same mon (say, in different provinces) ended up having slight differences due to artistic chance. These minor differences might not be expressed in the simple language of mon names, and would not be great for recognition in the heat of battle, but were in some cases taken seriously as a means of distinction. When a variant became well-known enough, it got its own name of the form “Family Charge”; e.g., the “Aoyama Coins”2, to distinguish it from other identically-named mon. Here are several different bellflower mon: the plain bellflower, two slightly-different but identically-named bellflowers in a circle enclosure, and a ‘shadowed’ or outline bellflower.

This gives you a taste of what common samurai mon might look like. We’ll go into more of the history and possible elements for mon next time.


  1. I have no evidence that there were standardized names for Mon before Mon registration in the Edo period, but the modern names are still useful for talking about pre-Edo mon.
  2. Again, it’s unclear if these names were at all standardized before Edo-period registration.