Here we have an interesting mon. Unlike many of the mon we’ve discussed recently, this mon has died out, and is no longer in use. In fact, finding information about this mon at all is quite challenging! It was used by Ōno Harufusa in the Battle of Ōsaka.(SH:62) What do you think it is?

Natagama Mon

My initial source for this mon, Stephen Turnbull’s Samurai Heraldry, describes this mon as a ‘hatchet’. But it doesn’t look like any hatchet I’ve ever seen. Perhaps this was some sort of traditional Japanese hatchet? Looking into it, however, it seems that Japanese hatchets are pretty similar to Western ones. What then?

After an extensive search, I found the mon in a Japanese collection of Sengoku period mon. Here it is identified as a “nata” (鉈).(SSS) This turns out to be a traditional forestry knife similar to a small machete used by woodcutters and for wilderness survival.(ja.wp:鉈) (The same kanji can also be used to mean “hatchet” in compounds, and a nata can be used for splitting wood like a hatchet, to give Turnbull some credit.) What this mon most resembles, however, is not the ordinary nata, but a variation called a “natagama” (鉈鎌) or “billhook”, which, unlike the plain nata, includes the hook at the end. It is mainly suited for cutting brush and branches, but could also be used as a weapon.(en.wp:Billhook)

As to why this mon didn’t catch on? One possibility is that, straddling the line between a weapon and a tool, once mon representing tools became associated with lower classes it was seen as not suitable for a samurai. Of course, the fact that our friend Harufusa seems not to have had any children(ja.wp:大野治房) may also have something to do with it.

Here’s a picture of an actual natagama, for comparison.