The Banner of Golden Brocade
Article about: The Banner of Golden Brocade This is Part 1 of a 2-part story on Rising Sun Flags. Please do not interrupt until you see the photo saying “End of Part 1” “D’OH! --- but, it’s still an attrac
Every infantry or cavalry regiment would hold annual open-house events open to the local community on or around the anniversary of receiving their standards. This was called the Gunki-Sai (軍旗際) and was something all the soldiers and public looked forward to as great entertainment. Not only were there the expected displays of weapons and the banner, but comical shows and plays even with soldiers cross-dressed as girls, etc were common fare. It was a school-fair-like event where everyone let their hair down and military discipline was relaxed.
Despite the open and easy-going atmosphere of these events, counterespionage had to be considered after 1940 when the army adopted “Tsushogo”code numbers instead of giving out their official unit designations (Read my article on the evolution of the army dog tag, if you don’t know what I mean). Most of all, the regimental banners showing the official unit designations as written by the emperor had to be censored out from any newspaper coverage of the local Gunki Festivals. That is why some photos from the time feature flags that are totally black.
1936 February -- The Power of the Banner
The Army’s failed coup de tat attempt by young officers on February 26th 1936 proved that the power of the Banner of Golden Brocade was still quite alive in the minds of its soldiers, as the government’s message to them took the form of an advertising balloon saying, “ The Emperor has spoken. Dare not bear Arms against the Gunki!”.
The End Game Rituals, Houkan and Houshou
Unlike the German Wehrmacht banners that were all ordered back to Berlin on 16th September 1944 to prevent capture by the enemy, the IJA Regimental Banners stayed at the very front lines to share fate with the regiment’s soldiers.
Not all ends were tragic, as after WW1, in the worldwide mood of disarmament, there were many regiments that were discontinued. In such cases there was the ritual of Houkan (奉還) meaning to “Humbly return to the Emperor”. This word was already used during the Meiji Restoration of 1868, as another way of referring to this turning point in history is “Taisei Houkan(大政奉還), meaning “Returning of Sovereignty from the Shogun to the Emperor”. However, to the regiment and to the locals, who had always looked forward to the annual Gunki-Sai, it was still a sad good bye. Official Houkan speeches were made and the entire town turned out and lined the streets, waving patriotic flags, as the banner made its last trip from camp to the train station. In this manner, these flags embarked on their return journey to the Imperial court in Tokyo, where they went into storage.
There were also numerous Houkans in the 1940s, as cavalry regiments were reorganized into reconnaissance regiments one after the other. So only a handful of Regimental banners for cavalry remained in the field by the end of the WW2.
The tragic ends involved Houshou (奉焼), the act of “Humbly incinerating” the flags. This ritual did not start in WW2, but already occurred during the Russo-Japanese War. In 1904, Transport ship, Hitachimaru was carrying on board part of the 1st Imperial Guards Reserve Infantry Regiment when they ran into the Russian fleet on 15th June. Despite being unarmed, the ship refused to surrender to the Russians and was sunk, but the regimental commander torched the flag before the sinking to avoid capture.
Then in 1939, the 64th and 71st Infantry Regiments also were doomed in the notorious run-in against Russian tanks at Nomonhan in end of August, and had also burned their banners.
From 1942 onwards, Houshou of Banners became common as those in Guadalcanal, Saipan, Guam, Tinian, Leyte, Peleliu, Iwo and Okinawa followed one after another in ever increasing numbers.
In between, the storage facility in Tokyo, where the flags, returned to through Houkan, also took a bomb hit and burned down with all its flags. Finally as capitulation approached, all units were ordered to put their flags to the torch before surrender.
All these events were meticulously entered into the flag logs that the regulation required to be kept, and by end of August, all regiment commanders submitted their Flag Disposal Reports addressed directly to the Emperor, summarizing the campaign histories of their flag from beginning to end. These reports all have the word Jousou (上奏), meaning “reporting to the Emperor” on the cover along with the regiment name and commander’s name. The first page starts by providing a photo of their banner, followed by a resume of the campaigns it went through and ending in the Houshou. It was an Eulogy, if you like, for the Banner that the Emperor had put in their care. Here is an example showing how the last flag report was prepared.
Last edited by nick komiya; 06-06-2016 at 11:53 PM.
From the Rubbles of Hiroshima
When the dust had settled, there was only one banner left intact. This was the banner of the 321st Infantry Regiment that had just been received by the unit not one month ago, on 23rd July 1945. The unit learned of the bombing of Hiroshima when it was on duty in Oyama of Tottori Prefecture and rushed to the devastated city on 6th of August to treat the injured and dispose of the bodies. There the war ended for them on 15th August and they, too, received the Army Minister’s order to burn their regimental flag. However Regiment Commander, Lt. Colonel, Shiro Goto could not bring himself to carry out that order, and conspired with his men to save their brand new flag. He secretly placed only the pole in the transport box for the banner and burned the box before witnesses. The flag and the pole-top were put in another box and he commanded the flag bearer to deliver it to the main shrine of a Shinto secret society called Shindou-Tenkoukyo (神道天行居) at the foot of Mt. Iwaki in Yamaguchi Prefecture. He was a member of the sect and had made arrangements with the head of the sect to provide sanctuary for the flag. There it remained hidden during the postwar American Occupation and only after the Treaty of San Francisco was signed in 1951, was it recovered by former members of the 321st, who later made a reproduction flag pole and dedicated the flag to Yasukuni Shrine where it remains on exhibit today.
What are known to remain from other banners are as follows;
-Yasukuni Shrine also holds pieces of burnt remains from banners of the 57th, 86th and 143rd Infantry Regiments.
-An exhibit at the Himeji Camp of the Ground Self Defense Forces has pieces from the blood-soaked banner of the 39th Regiment
-An exhibit at the Izumo Camp features shreds from the 63rd Regiment banner
-A memorial to the war-dead located in Sasayama City in Hyogo, holds the pole-top and pieces of the fringe from the 70th Regiment banner
-The 14th Infantry Regiment cut up the fringes and allowed officers, and men of its companies to keep pieces of it.
-Fringes from the 4th Regiment banner are at Gokoku Shrine in Miyagi
-Fragments from the 43rd Rgt banner are at Gokoku Shrine in Tokushima
-Gotenba Camp exhibit has Pole-top and fragment from the 34th
-Ohmura Camp exhibit has pieces from the 146 Rgt banner
-Pole-top of the 117 Rgt, pieces from the 17th Rgt.banner and from the 223 Rgt. Are held at Camp Akita
What about the Civilian version of the so-called Army Rising Sun Flag?
You should now see that what collectors like to call army flags are based on what the army had discontinued way back in 1874 and had not used ever since. They are pure civilian versions inspired by the army design and these continued to be produced into WW2. Civilians treated them like semi-official national flags, often displaying them in front of their homes, crossed with the meatball national flag. They were widely accepted, but legally, they were neither army banners nor a national flag, but just an infringement of an army copyright. Actually, they should have been illegal and had the army perhaps not felt flattered by the civilian attention, they would have set the Kempei (MPs) loose.
Even the Army of WW2 was only allowed the meatball national flag, which regulations issued only in 2 sizes. Large Hinomaru flags (3.03 x 2.12 meters) were for fine weather and the small ( 1.82 x 1.27 meters) ones for windy and rainy conditions.
The Army would have not been allowed to use the civilian version rising suns, as they were not in compliance to any regulation, civilian nor army (only on occasions like Gunki-sai could they get away with something like that).
But to call them as fake as Chinese Rolexes and blaming it all on greedy businessmen might be a bit unfair. The army may have to take some blame as it did officially name its 1870 rising sun flag an Army National Flag, as if it were a legitimate National Flag. So if the market saw it as an army variant of the national flag you could not blame them.
As always, excellent information! Thanks, Nick!
It looks like a flag remnant made it back to the US. See this post for more information, including written provenance on where it came from:
Remains of the Regimental Flag of the Japanese 222nd Inf Regiment - SPOILS OF WAR - U.S. Militaria Forum
Thanks Tom for some very interesting information. I already gave you the info below, but the reason I know even the time of day is because they kept a detailed diary of that day even recording the complete oath. I won't translate it but see attached
The 222 received their flag at the ceremony beginning 14:00 at the Imperial Palace on 23 March 1939
Houshou of the flag was on 21st June 1944
very interest info Nick.thanks.
Thank you for another very informative thread. I have never heard of any Japanese regimental flag having been captured by U. S. troops. This thread will become a sticky.
LIFE'S LOSERS NEVER LEARN FROM THE ERROR OF THEIR WAYS.
In Officer Buckles and Brocades
In Officer Buckles and Brocades
In Officer Buckles and Brocades
In Officer Buckles and Brocades