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The Evolution of Imperial Japan’s War Medals (1875-1945)

Article about: The Evolution of Japan’s War Medals (1875-1945) Prolog; Modernization of Japan, 200 years to catch up on As the era of the Shogun and the Samurai drew to a close, and sovereignty returned to

  1. #41


    Thanks Nick! I've marked that page for future reference. Funnily, I subconsiously interpreted ヿ as the medieval "Tironian nota" meaning "et/&"....

    You can see it on the Bayeux Tapestry.

    Ubi Harold Wido Parabolant
    Wherein Harold and Guy Confer

    appears today in modern Irish!

    Thanks for giving me "mune" -- it drove me crazy (crazier).


    Quote by nick komiya View Post
    See here, Guy. There are some others.
    Sorry, I was looking at the wrong one from the citation. I meant the one that comes closer to the end like an L upside down .The one you asked about is 旨 (Mune) and this could be written in many ways in the old days. See here ??? (???) [????] - ???????

  2. #42


    For those interested in orders, it is important to know that Japanese orders were not yours to keep, but had to be returned when you were awarded the next class above. Here's the story "Rare grouping of 3 classes of the Order of the Rising Sun, complete with citations"---Really?

  3. #43


    Great work! Will visit this thread more times for sure. Thank you for sharing Your knowledge

  4. #44


    Thank you. You should be back tomorrow, as a new story about the Emperor's uniforms and swords will be uploaded.

  5. #45


    Here are some rare color order images from Japan's National Archives.

    One is the original of the B&W image I used as post 2 of this thread, showing the Rising Sun first class. The color print shows the texture of the sash ribbon so realistically.

    The second image shows 1871 design studies of what later became the Rising Sun Orders.
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  6. #46


    To help you with dating, here is a quick glance at how the lapel ribbons and rosettes for the Order of the Rising Sun had evolved over the years Evolution of the Lapel Badges for the Order of the Rising Sun (1875-1945)

  7. #47


    Finally, a more legible version of the planned awarding number listing for the China Incident Commemorative medal I mentioned in post 23 has emerged, so here are the final numbers without all the smudging. Of course this makes absolutely no difference to the story, as the new figures are well within the margin of error I anticipated in the post. These numbers were greatly reduced by switching many to the waiting list for the Greater East Asia War Medal and only posthumous awards were made while everyone was made to wait for a glorious prize-giving for the Greater East Asia War, which never came.

    Type of Recipient and Issue Numbers Anticipated
    1. Civil servants or equivalent 468,900
    2. Municipal employees 168,100
    3. Members of prefectural and municipal parliaments 124,000
    4. Heads of villages and townships 187,700
    5. Heads of neighborhood associations 903,100
    6. Air raid surveillance groups 74,200
    7. Civil Defense related 75,000
    8. Newspaper and magazines 14,500
    9. Savings/Bonds promoters 3,900
    10. Youth Groups and Religious Groups 98,500
    11. Fishery and Forestry related public entities 247,400
    12. Commerce and industry public entities 45,100
    13. Commerce and industry 130,300
    14. Power, communications and aviation 14,300
    15. Shipping 34,100
    16. Railroads and freighting 7,300
    17. Social services 123,800
    18. Other Private Contributors within mainland Japan 20,200
    19. Private contributors in Korea 206,600
    20. Private contributors in Taiwan 102,300
    21. Private contributors in Sakhalin 17,000
    22. Private contributors in South Pacific Areas 2,400

    Total 3,068,700
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    Last edited by nick komiya; 01-17-2017 at 08:54 PM.

  8. #48


    As it turns out, a correction was actually premature. There were two different sets of figures for anticipated awarding numbers for the China Incident commemorative medal issued at different times. The figures I had quoted in post 23 were the first estimates from 6th July 1942. However a more legible copy I discovered confirmed the real figure to be not 4,742,000 but 4,701,300.

    Either way, back when the medal was still proposed to be called the “China Incident Homefront Service Commemorative Medal” the award numbers were expected to be almost 5 million medals. This was, because the draft of the awarding regulations at the time was proposing to award this medal to everyone on the home front, who had "direct involvement" in support activities related to the incident.

    The reduced numbers of 3,068,700 I provided above, on the other hand, were actually a later projection from 26th September 1942 when the China Incident Commemorative Medal was finally instituted, and after the awarding criteria of the medal had been changed to those who only made “beyond the call of duty contributions” on the home front in support of the military actions. This change cut out public officials who had been directly involved, but only in the course of their routine business.

    Thus the medal count was reduced by 1.6 million medals between these two sets of projections. But still this reduced issue number of 3 million medals would have made the commemorative medal as common today as the China Incident War Medal.

    However, as I explained in the article, numbers were later further reduced by shifting many of those owed the medal to the Greater East Asia War Medal instead, which was planned to have an award number as great as 6 million medals.

    Along with the 2 sets of legible planned awarding figures, I also made a sensational discovery of the initial design drawing for the medal that clearly says “China Incident Homefront Service Commemorative Medal”. This prototype design should kill once and for all the myth of the Chinese collaborator medal.
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    Last edited by nick komiya; 02-18-2017 at 05:58 PM.

  9. #49

    Default The 1904-05 War Medal (The Russo-Japanese War Medal)

    The 1904-05 War Medal (The Russo-Japanese War Medal)

    I already wrote about the first 3 and last 3 war medals, so here is the story about the 4th War Medal for the Russo Japanese War of 1904-05, as one step forward in bridging the gap I left in the middle.

    The Russo-Japanese War

    This war virtually ended with the decimation of the whole Russian Baltic Fleet in the end of May 1905, and a Peace Treaty was concluded in September with the help of Teddy Roosevelt. The Baltic Fleet had sailed all the way around the globe, departing from the port of Liepaja of present day Latvia in October 1904 to come to the aid of the Russian fleet in Vladivostok, taking more than half a year to reach the Sea of Japan. In between, the Russian Pacific fleet from Vladivostok had sought shelter in the harbor of Port Arthur, which was heavily fortified with big coastal guns to keep the Japanese fleet at bay.

    The Japanese navy borrowed American tactics from the Spanish-American War by trying to sink a string of ships at the narrow mouth of the bay to trap the fleet inside, as the US Navy had attempted in Santiago Bay. However, when that blockading attempt failed, it had to be left to the army to try to take Hill 203, inland of the bay from which the entire port could be looked down upon. The army suffered horrendous losses under General Nogi but was finally able to take the heights in early December 1904 and rained the harbor with shells from there, destroying the whole fleet that had taken refuge in Port Arthur.

    From that point, the war had become like the showdown at the OK Corral. Everyone in Japan held their breaths in ever-mounting suspense as they knew for more than 6 months that the Baltic Fleet was on their way for a duel with the Japanese fleet. The Baltic Fleet needed to be resupplied with coal and made port calls at various colonies on the way, so the entire Japanese population could follow the gradual approach of the enemy. So when Togo’s fleet was eventually able to successfully intercept them and sink them in the legendary T formation, entire Japan exploded in jubilation.

    It was an unbelievable victory in many ways, as Japan was on the verge of total bankruptcy and the war bonds they tried to sell overseas were not selling, as no one believed Japan could win against Russia. It was indeed a close one. In the end, it was an American Jewish investor, who funded a large part of Japan’s war effort as a gesture of defiance against Russian pogroms of the Jews, and if Teddy Roosevelt had not stepped in at the right time to mediate Peace, Japan would have collapsed in upon itself.

    The Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95 was already a monumental enough victory to depart from the default war medal design from 1875, so for a bombastic victory like this it was evident that no hand-me-down designs from the Taiwan Campaign would do. Within three months of the signing of the peace treaty, a new design for a Russo-Japanese War Medal was on the Prime Minister’s desk.
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  10. #50


    2nd December 1905, Design Proposal from the Tokyo School of Arts

    Ever since the Sino-Japanese War Medal, the army was not content with just leaving the design work to the Decorations Bureau, and set off on their own to come up with a design. This time, the Army commissioned the prestigious Tokyo School of Arts 東京美術学校 with the design work.

    The sculptor, Shokichi Hata ( 畑正吉), who later served as design consultant for the Decorations Bureau between 1915 and 1945 and had designed numerous medals of those days, was also in his final year at the school at that time (he graduated in 1906 and later also taught there as professor). It is not known whether Hata already had a hand in this design, but the army surely seemed to have teamed up with the right institution with powerful credentials that must have been intimidating to those in the Decorations Bureau.

    The resulting design proposal from the art school was received by the army on 7th December 1905. The following explanation was provided for their design drawing.

    Material----Bronze (95% Copper, 4% Pewter, 1% Zinc)

    Front Design-------Imperial chrysanthemum, Army Star, Naval Anchor, Army Regimental Flag, Naval Ensign intersecting each other and bound together in the middle by a voluble stem of ground pine 日陰蘿 ( Lycopodium clavatum ).

    Rear Design-------Crossed sprig of laurel 名誉樹葉 and palm frond 戦勝樹葉 with a shield in center bearing the words “War of Meiji 37-38”

    Supporting frame----Shaped as a Golden Kite

    Ribbon----------------Same design as that of the Sino-Japanese War Medal, but replacing the blue green with red.

    It is evident that the final design of the medal was a revised version of this proposal. The rear design is identical to the final design, and the front design only got the golden kite, anchor, star and the binding ground pine removed to be replaced by the paulownian crest in the final version.

    This proposal was like a field day for a botanist, full of symbolic flora. The ground pine served as a Shinto symbol here. Myth has it that when the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu barricaded herself in a cave and refused to come out, a nude female dancer wearing only tangles of ground pine danced erotically before the cave to lure the goddess out. Thus the plant still plays a religious role in Shinto celebrations today.

    On the other hand, the laurel and palm on the back were purely tributes to Western symbolism, nothing with a Japanese background. In Greece and Rome, both laurel leaves as a wreath and palm fronds were symbols of victory and triumph, so the Japanese incorporated these Western symbols to translate the context of the medal to be recognizable to Westerners as well.

    The Japanese had never associated palm with victory, so inspired by its significance to the West, this Tokyo School of Arts document coined the word “Victory Tree” for palm for the first time in Japanese history, instead of using the common Japanese name for palm. However, this coining of a new name created confusion down the line and in the official edict signed by the Emperor on 30th March 1906 had transformed itself from 戦勝樹 (Victory Tree) to 戦捷草 (Victory Plant).

    Dr. Seiichi Kawamura, a botanist exposed this as a botanical fiasco in a series of articles he wrote for a newspaper in November 1919. He pointed out that palm was a tree, "a respectable tree even big enough to make pillars from it trunks". So he claimed that to describe it as some puny weed-like plant proved how ignorant and inept government officials were. He guessed that because of the unfamiliar name, they must have simply looked at the motif and mistook the frond as something like a fern. He also assumed that some botanically challenged designer was responsible for this misnomer of calling a palm tree a weenie plant, but that was not so, as the Art School’s document clearly called it a tree. It was the officials that jumbled it like in a game of “Chinese Whispers”.
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    Last edited by nick komiya; 03-21-2017 at 09:43 PM.

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