As time progressed, the daimyō gained power, and the samurai class came into its own in the Sengoku Period, mon became more universally used for identification among samurai, and the variety of mon used increased. While other forms of identification heraldry were used, including a wide variety of giant objects on poles, mon had the advantage that they could be replicated quickly, used on a wide variety of items (banners, curtains, armor, shields, and personal items), and could be varied easily in color1, background, or placement to represent different divisions of an army.(SH:24) Because of the widespread use of mon and the greater number of surviving records, we have evidence, both written and pictorial, for more mon in the Sengoku and Momoyama periods.

Even as the Edo period approached and mon became more stylistically consistent, they still weren’t as uniform as they later became. For example, while the modern image of mon generally has them about as tall as they are wide, today’s mon doesn’t follow that at all. Then again, it makes sense for a ladder to be tall. Ladders made good mon for several reasons: a simple design, ability to vary rung numbers to create variations, and a shape that mirrored the tall banners often used in battle. It may have also had auspicious connotations of rising in the world.(Dower:118) The ladder mon was used by Makino Tadanari (who used 7 and 10-runged ladders) at the Battle of Osaka in 1614–15 and by Matsudaira (Okochi) Nobutsua (who used an 8-runged ladder) in the Shimbara Rebellion in 1638.2 This latter ladder is shown here.

Here is a modern-style, more square version of the ladder mon. While tall ladders are still in use, they often use a more three-dimensional design than earlier ladders.

Footnotes »