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Commemorative Medals of the Empire of Japan

Article about: Commemorative Medals of the Empire of Japan Foreword As I had already finished writing a complete history of Japanese War Medals, I thought I might start something on the commemorative medal

  1. #51

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    Now a Census for Prospective Census Medal Recipients

    Registrations of those who qualified to receive the census medal began in September of 1921. The Army had its own census surveyors to survey people in army schools and barracks, so a memo went out on 25th September to list those personnel for issuing of the medal. The memo further said that the nominal award date for the medal was to be 1st July 1921, so titles preceding the name should be what applied at that date. These applications were to be submitted by end of October.

    I currently have no information about total issue numbers or when people actually got the medals, but the majority of the awards would have been to people who had been given a census taker badge earlier, so required production numbers must have been pretty much established already in June when the Edict was issued.

    But in view of the Army memo, requesting submission of recipient name lists by end of October 1921, it is reasonable to expect delivery of most of those medals only in 1922. For instance, a printed letter from the governor of Aichi Prefecture, prepared to accompany the issuing of medals to the census takers in his area, was dated August 1922.

    The citation in my collection is already numbered 221,623, so it is easily the most common commemorative medal of the seven medals we have discussed so far and they are quite easy to find.
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture Commemorative Medals of the Empire of Japan   Commemorative Medals of the Empire of Japan  

    Commemorative Medals of the Empire of Japan  

  2. #52
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    Quote by nick komiya View Post
    [B][SIZE=5]On this point, the cry was actually initially proposed to be “奉賀 Hohga (Felicitations)” by the Minister of Education, but it was soon noted that repeating that cry would sound the same as Ahohga (You Idiot!), so it was that the Banzai (May you live ten thousand years) cry was born, as the Emperor’s carriage travelled from the Palace to the military review that afternoon.
    That is just priceless!!!
    Thank you very much for the wonderful insight!!!!
    -= Archival research Service for Soviet awards. PM if interested. =-

  3. #53

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    The Minister, who had proposed "Hohga" as the cry was Arinori Mori, who had earlier also questioned the need to mention the rights of citizens in the Constitution. He even proposed to make English the official language of Japan, but wanted to first modify the irregular conjugations of English verbs to be regular for more efficient learning before applying it to Japan. His non-Japanese ways ended up getting him assassinated as he left home on the morning of the Promulgation of the Constitution. See here for his bio.

    If he had his way "Go, Went, Gone" would have become "Go, Goed, Goed" in Japanese English.
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture Commemorative Medals of the Empire of Japan  

  4. #54

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    The Medal that put the Decorations Bureau Chief in Jail



    The Imperial Household Survival Guide

    In the days of the Samurai, having a male heir to carry on the family name was a matter of life and death for a domain. Not having an heir meant that the clan forfeited the right to rule the area, and all the Samurai in the employ of that lord lost their jobs and became Ronin, what we now call freelancers (free-sworders might be more appropriate, in this case). And, as being a vassal to a certain lord was a status inherited for generations, you simply could not apply for a position under another lord, the way things work now when a company goes bankrupt.

    The same was true of the Shogun, so it became a national crisis when they ended up making Iemitsu Tokugawa the third Shogun, as he was gay. His pampering mother ended up creating a huge Harlem for the Shogun, where all men except the Shogun were off limits to ensure that any child born there was certifiably the Shogun’s child. They even bent the strict rules about social classes and brought in farmer’s or even merchant’s daughters, first by having a Samurai adopt them, which converted them to Samurai class. Even then, some say they probably had to dress some of the girls as boys to get Iemitsu interested.

    Another serious problem behind this adult version fairytale was the extremely high mortality rate of children in the early days, even in the early 20th Century. Children just seemed to die like flies, and few ever reached their teens. The royal family was also no exception, and if the countermeasures described above are already mindboggling, the imperial family picked up a few of their own tricks to deal with the problem of keeping Princes alive long enough to inherit the throne.

    First, princes were given out to foster families selected from commoners for the first 5 or so years of their lives to prevent them from becoming overly pampered and protected and allowing them some rough and tumble like normal kids. But I personally cannot imagine a farmer having the nerve to spank a prince for misbehaving, so it might have had more to do with making them experience how their subjects lived.

    In addition to that, they were brought up as girls in that first part of their lives, as it was believed that infant boys had a much higher mortality rate than girls. So by dressing them up as girls, they seemed to think they could cheat the devil into overlooking them as somewhat ugly girls.

    Emperor Meiji’s wife unfortunately could not conceive, so he sired 15 children with concubines, as concubines were accepted within the imperial household in those days. After his birth, Prince Yoshihito, the later Emperor Taisho was immediately adopted by the infertile Empress, so he spent most of his life separated from his biological mother.

    As many as 10 of these 15 kids, already died as children, which only left Yoshihito and 4 younger sisters as survivors into adulthood.

    So it was already against heavy odds that he made it as far as becoming Emperor, but his luck simply didn’t last. The devil found him soon enough.
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture Commemorative Medals of the Empire of Japan   Commemorative Medals of the Empire of Japan  

    Last edited by nick komiya; 11-09-2017 at 10:25 PM.

  5. #55

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    “Ah, I see you, I see you!”

    My grandfather and grandmother were married, because my grandfather’s professor at university did the match-making, and that professor soon became Emperor Taisho’s personal physician. So our family probably should have known better, but I was brought up hearing stories from my mother how Emperor Taisho had been pretty much an imbecile all his adult life.

    As soon as he was born, he suffered a brain infection that festered for about half a year. He did not do well in school and he flunked grades, though later he appeared totally recovered, only not his school grades.

    Around the time he visited Korea as Crown Prince was his heyday when he was in fairly acceptable shape both in mind and health. However, by the 5th year after his enthronement of 1912 he started to crumble already.

    The most famous of his “Mr. Bean” like antics is what he did after reading a speech in the national diet. He rolled up his speech script, looked through it like a telescope at the members of parliament sitting in front of him, and said “Ah, I see you, I see you!”. Such a public spectacle simply could not be brushed aside and it became legend, conveniently coupled with an unkind explanation that it was the result of too much inbreeding. Such a virulent and outspoken dissemination of unkind rumors, however, was a post-war 1950s thing, as it was a crime to insult the Emperor in prewar Japan.

    By 1919, he could hardly feed himself or read speeches out loud. Finally, they had to accept that there was no chance of recovery, and on 25th November 1921, the 20-year old, Crown Prince Hirohito became Regent to take over all the Emperor’s official duties.

    Emperor Taisho completely retired from public duty and spent the rest of his days in the imperial villas in the countryside where recovery and regression came in turns, but by December 1926 he was completely bedridden.

    His Empress wishing somehow to make up for her husband having to die without even really knowing his own biological mother, called her to the villa, and thus holding his mother’s hand, at 1:25 AM on Christmas Day 1926, he passed away at the young age of 47.

    That Christmas Day, which also happened to be Hirohito’s birthday, thus became the first day of the 1st Year of Showa, which only had 7 days left to it.

    My generation was brought up believing he had been retarded all his life, but recent studies by Neurologists who picked out symptoms from the diaries of the Emperor’s personal physicians, including the diary of my Grandfather’s mentor, theorize that he must have suffered lead poisoning in his mother’s womb from the white facial cream noble women used in those days. This may appear to recover for some years on the surface, but can come back later to cause Alzheimer-like dementia.

    On 8th February 1927, he became the first Emperor to be buried outside Tokyo instead of the traditional area around Kyoto.

    Hirohito’s Sennso was conducted on 25th December 1926 at the Imperial Villa in Hayama, where Emperor Taisho died. Keeping to the rule of allowing one year of mourning between the death of an emperor and the enthronement of the next one, Hirohito’s Enthronement Ceremony would take place on 10th November 1928 in Kyoto.
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture Commemorative Medals of the Empire of Japan  
    Last edited by nick komiya; 11-09-2017 at 07:29 PM.

  6. #56

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    Jan. – April 1928, Showa Grand Ceremony Commemorative Medal Design and Budgeting

    Already on 23rd January 1928, the Decorations Bureau wrote to the Cabinet Secretary Chief that in order to go ahead with budgeting and edict drafting, the Bureau would commission President Naohiko Masaki 正木直彦 of the Tokyo School of Arts and its Professor Yoshinari Shimada 島田佳矣 of the Graphic Design Department for preliminary design work on the medal. This letter is clearly insinuating that the medal is too important to leave to designers working for the government and deserved input from the highest art authorities, which is what the school represented.

    The budget established for the Grand Ceremony on 30th April 1928 anticipated the production volume of the medal to be approx. 250,000 pieces. I guess they must have gotten this figure from the actual numbers issued of the Taisho Grand Ceremony Medal, so the number of Taisho medals must have been closer to 250,000 rather than the 150,000 I earlier guessed it to be.

    On 5th of June, the Osaka Mint provided their assessment on how much impact fluctuations in production numbers were likely to have on unit cost of the medal. They claimed that approximately 70% of the cost quoted earlier for budgeting of the medal was raw material cost of the silver itself.

    The report explained that the biggest threat cost-wise was the recent dispatch of Japanese Army troops to Shangdong China and the huge 13% speculative appreciation that this unrest in China brought to the market price of silver, which at that particular time was way above what had been budgeted. However, the surge in silver market prices was steadily showing signs of subsiding, so by the time they were to be struck into medals at the Osaka mint, the cost was hoped to be back to the initially projected level bringing them back on the budget line.

    The budget line they were referring to was a unit cost of 1.11 Yen per medal. This broke down to 70% or 0.7238 Yen of that going to material cost of the raw silver, 0.0662 Yen of processing cost arising within the Osaka mint and 0.32 Yen of processing cost at outside subsidiaries for finishing and assembly. They were using the silver smith Yamaguchi Tankin Company of Osaka for the finishing work and Takashimaya for fitting the inlays into the cases.

    For the Osaka mint, striking 300,000 medals (this seemed to be the tentative number given to them by the Decorations Bureau for the costing exercise) was nowhere close to their production limit and they could strike tens of thousands more without changing the unit cost for their work, but the raw material cost of silver could completely upset the plan for them, so they would actually prefer to contract only for the net worth they added and keep the cost of the raw silver out of the contract. Regarding their die striking costs, anything over 50,000 pieces was expected to have approximately the same unit cost.

    Let me add some comments on where things were at with silver prices on the market. The post WWI era of 1920 to 1929 was generally a stable episode for silver. In 1920, silver fell suddenly to approximately half the price of the previous year, as many countries were thought to go back to the Gold Standard to back up their currencies, so a low level holding pattern was set in anticipation of the gradual comeback of gold. But once into 1929, the Great Depression hit and by 1932 prices were halved again and hit a historic low.

    The above exchange between the Osaka Mint and Decorations Bureau made it sound like the Bureau was ready to give the whole contract of 250,000 medals to the mint, but the Bureau actually had a villain at its helm at that time, and they were fishing around for numbers to throw at as many as 30 medal manufacturers they were trying to defraud. I will tell you more about this at the end.
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture Commemorative Medals of the Empire of Japan  
    Last edited by nick komiya; 11-09-2017 at 07:39 PM.

  7. #57

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    Medal Proposal Submitted to the Cabinet

    The Showa Grand Ceremony Medal proposal was submitted to the Prime Minister from the Decorations Bureau on 15th June 1928, 5 months before the Enthronement Ceremony.

    The proposed awarding criteria were the same as the Taisho medal of last time. It said

    1. Those invited to the Sennso Ceremony

    2. Those invited to the Enthronement Ceremony and Great Thanksgiving Festival

    3. Those invited to banquets at the various locations

    4. Those involved in organizing and setting up the Grand Ceremonies

    A comment added to the end said, the former medal established in August 1915 called the “Grand Ceremony Commemorative Medal 大礼記念章” shall be retroactively renamed “Taisho Grand Ceremony Commemorative Medal 大正大礼記念章” to differentiate it from this medal, the “Showa Grand Ceremony Commemorative Medal 昭和大礼記念章”

    Unlike the “Taisho Grand Ceremony Commemorative Medal” the suspension system went back to a simple ring, like all the other commemorative medals.

    The obverse design was to feature the new Takamikura constructed for Emperor Taisho’s Enthronement. And, in the center of that, a golden chrysanthemum crest was to symbolize the Emperor. By this time the Emperor was no longer the sole bearer of the Collar of the Chrysanthemum so the same design as the constitution promulgation medal could not be repeated. It said further that the throne was to be flanked on both sides by tufts of clouds and alternating blooms of cherry and Tachibana Orange were to adorn the rim. Below the Takamikura was to be the word “Banzai” at the bottom.

    The rear was to feature the outline of a chrysanthemum crest along the rim, and a banner in the middle carrying the words Grand Ceremony Commemorative Medal 大礼記念章 flanked by cloud designs on both sides. At the bottom, the date was to say November of the 3rd Year of Showa (1928).

    All the calligraphy appearing on the medal such as the “Banzai”, etc was from the brush of Prince Kotohito 閑院宮載仁親王, who was the President for the Enthronement Celebration 大礼使総裁 . He was an adopted brother of Emperor Meiji and therefore was Hirohito’s great uncle, who had also accompanied Hirohito on his 6-month trip to Europe in 1921.

    The basic design had been developed by the Tokyo School of Arts, but the mold sculpting work for the obverse side was attributed to Shokichi Hata 畑正吉 and to Kineo Yamada 山田甲子雄 for the rear side. Hata had also done the victory medal earlier. Also a graduate of the Tokyo School of Art, he was the Chief of the Sculpture Research Center of the Japan Mint at the time of working on this medal.

    The edict draft was endorsed by the Cabinet as well as the Legislation Bureau on 9th July 1928 and duly signed by the Emperor on 31st July 1928 as Edict 188
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture Commemorative Medals of the Empire of Japan   Commemorative Medals of the Empire of Japan  

    Last edited by nick komiya; 11-10-2017 at 08:35 AM.

  8. #58

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    Once again demand outstrips supply

    A memo issued on 29th September 1928 within the Ministry of Finance warned that like the Taisho Grand Ceremony Medal, they had once again budgeted too conservatively and expected production numbers were coming out too short. This was because of desperate requests from municipalities to be allowed to invite significantly more people to the banquets than initially anticipated.

    The number of medals planned for production was initially 250,000 pieces which was already budgeted by the Ministry of Finance on 30th April 1928. As a possible solution, for instance, the memo saw no absolute need to issue the medal in silver as specified in the edict and considered switching to copper to bring the unit price down, but the extra quantities needed was expected to be in the tens of thousands, so they had to accept fiddling with quality had its limits. In the end they decided to wait until 10th October or so when they could have a better grasp of the final numbers needed and place an irregular request for additional budget.

    By that time in October, it must have become clear that they needed another 100,000 or so medals, as a company called the Japan Order Manufacturing Company (日本勲章製作株式会社) was newly set up on 17th October 1928 under the pretence that they will be making the Showa Grand Ceremony Medal.
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture Commemorative Medals of the Empire of Japan   Commemorative Medals of the Empire of Japan  

    Commemorative Medals of the Empire of Japan  

  9. #59

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    Medals issued with 4 different nominal award dates

    On 27th October 1928, the Decorations Bureau notified government agencies that for those people invited to the Enthronement and Thanksgiving Festival, they had plans to present the medals to them on those days at the venue, so a list of names was requested by 1st of November.

    Close to the event, the Navy Gazette dated 29th October 1928 said those who were invited to the banquets in celebration of the Grand Ceremony should register their names and titles by 15th November.

    The Enthronement Ceremony held in Koyoto on 10th November was attended by 665 recipients of 1st class and higher orders, 92 foreign delegates and more than 2,000 participants invited within the palace. The Great Thanksgiving Festival was held on 14th and 15th of November.

    After the Grand Ceremonies, the Navy further issued an internal guideline on those not invited to the banquets, who still qualified for the medal. Generally speaking, they were those involved in administrative work related to the ceremonies, those involved as ceremonial guards or those involved in processing sentence pardons issued as part of the celebrations. This memo was issued on 28th January 1929 and the titles of the individuals were to be those valid on 30th November 1928. But even after that, discussions continued on minor grey areas like how about navy band members who had a minor score to play, etc, proving how technically difficult it becomes to draw the line for recipients of commemorative medals.


    Citations for this medal may have either of the 4 different dates shown below, depending on which part of the festivities the recipient took part in.

    10th November 1928 Citation Dates
    Citations with this main date were for those invited to the Sennso or Enthronement Ceremony and Ceremonial Staff 大礼使職員

    14th November 1928 Citation Dates
    Those invited to the Great Thanksgiving Festival

    16th November 1928 Citation Dates
    Those invited to the Great Imperial Banquet or to the banquets hosted by various municipalities.

    30th November 1928 Citation Dates
    Those involved in the ceremony administrative work or supporting functions

    Thus those with 10th and 14th November dates were generally presented on that day on the spot, but those with 16th and 30th dates were given out much later, well towards the end of 1929.

    Many of those last batches seem to have been issued initially without the cases, as there was a flurry of case delivery memos within the navy in September and October of 1929, which is a year after the time they should have started to issue the medals.



    A total of 369,154 Medals issued in the end

    Records as of end of March 1931 said a total of 369,154 Showa Grand Ceremony Commemorative Medals were issued.

    Of these numbers, 250,000 had been initially contracted to the Osaka Mint and possibly a few other companies. The rest of the required production volume would have become clearer around October 1928 and seem to have been scattered across several private manufacturers, including the Japan Order Manufacturing Company newly set up in October 1928.

    As we have seen in the earlier correspondence between the mint and the Decorations Bureau, the Osaka mint alone could have easily dealt with the surge in volume, but contracts were given out to multiple firms. This was the result of foul play by a group of some dirty rotten scoundrels I will get into next.

    But what about all the extra silver now needed? The point is that many of the surviving examples I see don’t look like made of silver at all, but rather like zinc.

    It is also very suspicious that the medals were issued in 4 distinctly separated batches by dates. Though I say this without documentary evidence, if I were the fraudster, I would have issued the first two batches in silver, as they were the crème de la crème that I needed to please, and the rest were more like a crowd of rubber-neckers just happy to have a memento in zinc

    Now let’s finally go behind the scenes to expose the crime that was being committed.
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture Commemorative Medals of the Empire of Japan   Commemorative Medals of the Empire of Japan  

    Commemorative Medals of the Empire of Japan  
    Last edited by nick komiya; 11-09-2017 at 10:46 PM.

  10. #60

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    The Corruption Scandal at the Decorations Bureau


    The Chief of the Decorations Bureau at the time was a man named Naoyoshi Amaoka 天岡直喜, who was the Bureau Chief between 27th May 1927 and 10th July 1929. Actually his appointment to that post was a stroke of luck, as he was a freshly bankrupted man in 1927, due to having guaranteed a loan for a friend, who defaulted and caused Amaoka to shoulder a debt of 20,000 Yen, forcing him to declare bankruptcy (This bankruptcy was later overturned as a charade arranged between him and creditors.).

    He was particularly well connected, as his wife was the 4th daughter of Taro Katsura 桂太郎, a former Prime Minister and Army General. Katsura had already passed away in 1913, but Giichi Tanaka 田中義一, who had just become Prime Minister on 20th April 1927 was also a former Army General, who had been close to Katsura.

    Thus Tanaka did his old friend’s son-in-law the favor of appointing him to the post of Decorations Bureau Chief. But the Tanaka Cabinet did not last long and fell on 2nd July 1929 with Amaoka also resigning a week later.

    Then by early September, it was all over the newspapers that “Mr. X” had abused his position to take bribes. The prosecutors were first pursuing charges that he had promised several companies the contract to produce the Showa Grand Ceremony Medal and collected bribes from those companies.

    But during the investigation, it also came out that he had been awarding orders to businessmen in exchange for money and the whole country was outraged.

    The main perpetrators were a man named Hiroshi Nagashima 長島弘, a relative of Amaoka and Amaoka’s secretary at the Bureau, Katsunobu Kamohara 鴨原亮暢.

    Amaoka knew what those men were up to, and though most of the money went into Kamohara’s pocket, Amaoka did accept the money he was offered and spent it on a kept woman and drinking.

    The culprits offered to give production contracts in 1928 to more than 30 badge manufacturers, and collected from each “political campaign funding” , ranging from 150 to a few thousand Yen. Mainly victimized were the Ikoma Watch Shop 生駒時計店 in Osaka, Kobayashi Watch Shop 小林時計店 in Tokyo and Shobi-Doh 尚美堂 in Osaka, who contributed large sums.

    In order to trick those companies into thinking this was a legitimate government offer, meetings with them were set up at the official residence of the Decorations Bureau Chief, and Amaoka was also made to run into them, as if by coincidence while they were in the waiting room.

    Nagashima also set up the company called the Japan Order Manufacturing Company (日本勲章製作株式会社) on 17th October 1928, and made Toshimatsu Hoshi 星年松 its senior executive. He was told that, for appearances sake, they would need to order samples from several companies, but the majority of the contract for the Showa Grand Celebration Medal would go to Japan (Nippon) Order Manufacturing

    The scam was finally exposed by one of the many companies promised business, who belatedly realized in August 1929 that he had been defrauded. They sued and filth hit the fan in full force in early September 1929.

    But Amaoka could not be named in the newspapers, because he was of Chokuninkan rank, which meant appointed by the Emperor, giving him immunity from prosecution. But the Prosecutor’s Office was able to get the Emperor’s consent to prosecute Amaoka on 11th September.

    So as his name finally hit the papers in this way, there was further uproar from indignant order recipients, who protested that they could not accept their honor being tarnished by a criminal’s signature on their order citations. Also, as soon as the news was out that he was arrested, creditors rushed to auction off Amaoka’s house.

    I will not get into details, but as I mentioned earlier, he was sued on two counts, the other being the selling of orders for money, which was actually the more serious of the charges.

    In May of 1933, Amaoka was sentenced to 2 years in prison. Prosecutors appealed and a fine of 12,500 Yen was added to his 2-year jail sentence. In September 1935 further appeals were rejected and another 14,250 Yen was added to his fine.

    Though the amounts involved in this scandal were not that huge, it was a nightmare event for private companies making medals and orders for the government, as from this point onwards, medals and orders were no longer contracted out to private companies and made by the mint until some lower class orders came back to the private sector in 1943.

    The medals manufactured by the infamous Japan Order Manufacturing Company (日本勲章製作株式会社) are hallmarked with an “N” from Nippon. Shobi-Doh 尚美堂 is stamped with a ”S” on the ring and the Osaka Mint marked with an “M”, should you wish to place your medal within this crime scene.
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture Commemorative Medals of the Empire of Japan  
    Last edited by nick komiya; 11-10-2017 at 08:45 AM.

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