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The Legendary Sake Cup...Or Not?

Article about: Here is a type of cup which has had quite a bit of legend built up around it! I cant even say for sure it is a military sake cup.However the story seems to be circulating in the community so

  1. #1

    Default The Legendary Sake Cup...Or Not?

    Here is a type of cup which has had quite a bit of legend built up around it! I cant even say for sure it is a military sake cup.However the story seems to be circulating in the community so I thought I would bring it here to discuss.Fortunately for me I bought it as a sake cup! I am just curious to see if anyone has any reference information about this style cup.Regards,Geoff

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    For me, it appears to be a standard civilian sake cup. I do not see any military connection. It is a nice item.


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    Those cups turned up in Japan in flea markets in large quantities more than 6 years ago, and was sold by most vendors as the cups in which the Tokkotai made their last water toast (see pinned article on Kamikaze about this ritual). I have not done any extensive research on them to totally dismiss them, but they are known to be lacking the prerequisite industry markings for ceramics (see updated pinned article on labeling of civilian goods), whereas similar cups like the one shown below were definitely marked during the war (the example is marked"岐26").

    Rather, I give more credibility to an alleged description of another type of cup in some book mentioning the presence of the chrysanthemum crest of the emperor, and such cups are also sold as Tokkotai cups in Japan. These are cheap clay items without a proper stand/leg on the bottom, indicating they were not meant to be put down after the drink, but shattered. They came in boxes with the Kanji on the lid meaning a gift from the emperor. These examples shown below are much more promising to be the real thing than the cherry blossom one that started this thread in my opinion.
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    Wartime controlled economy ceramics is a fairly popular field of collecting in Japan and such collectors generally regard the cherry blossom cup in question to be an early post war item, because of the missing control code.

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    I have one of theese white cup with emperor's mon. It came with another one from Yasukuni Jinja. I don't know if all the family of the fallen soldiers received one when the soul of their relative was enshrined?

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    Thanks for bringing up the main purpose of those clay cups as commemorative pieces for the bereaved families of the fallen in WW2.
    I do not think for a minute that special cups were generally used for Tokko departures. Generally they would have used whatever was locally available. Only in some cases they could have used something like this clay cup with a mum. However, the reference to a mum having been featured on the cup is only second hand info and I have not verified it myself, so I don't know whether it was mentioned in a memoir or some other book. Either way, one needs to avoid jumping to conclusions about these clay cups and the Tokko connection, because I also have reason to believe they also might be postwar mementos from the emperor to the bereaved families. The fact is that they were still giving them out as late as 1950 and the printed message that came with them referred to "the recent war", not the "on-going war". Whether they started to give them out already during the war and whether some actually got supplied to Tokko units remains an unanswered question at this time. I repeat, I merely meant that these clay cups are more plausible than the cherry blossom fantasies.

  7. #7


    Thank you Nick for your valuable opinion about theese mysterious cups. I bought mine because I wanted an imperial gift in my collection and the other one because of my interest in Yasukuni Jinja, fallen soldiers (from all country btw) and bereaved family. Theese clay cups are still quite affordable, unlike more massive imperial gifts (like swords).

    I tried to do some googling in vain, maybe because I don't have the proper name in kanji. Should we speak about "onshi no sakakuzi" as for tabacco? I supposed the kanji would be "賜の赤犬" but I must be wrong. I read (on wiki) that onshino tabacco was part of IJA and IJN supplie , so if anyone deserved a gift they didn't have to wait from imperial headquarter (would have been quite a mess) for such little matter. Is it true? Could we assume they received stocks from all kind of imperial gift in order to be self sufficient (in a way)? It could explain why use and distribution was not so uniform nor fully documented?

    Just wild guesses (as often) I wanted to submit to Nick's knowledge. I wonder if it's worth sending a polite mail to Yushukan Museum on this subject. Did one of the membres here ever tried to reach them with any success?

  8. #8


    There is not much mystery about the clay cups. Their purpose was clear. The government in Himeji announced in May 1953 that bereaved families of war dead, who had not yet received the cup, should contact the local welfare office to receive them. This announcement officially referred to these cups as " 御紋付土器盃", meaning "Clay cups with Imperial Crest". How did you ever end up Googling for "賜の赤犬"? That means "Gift of a Red Dog ", so no wonder you did not find anything.
    I am not sure what exactly you want to know regarding the Imperial gift cigarettes, but they have been routinely issued to soldiers since at least 1877. At its peak, in 1944, they issued as many as 28 million cigarettes. In the beginning, the crest was printed at the mouthpiece end, but this created a problem, which went as far as the army, always fanatic about how its soldiers treated anything presented by the emperor, actually bringing official charges against one of its soldiers, who allegedly disposed of a "mum-crested cigarette butt in a disrespectful manner". So in 1914, they changed the location of the crest to the middle section of the cigarette, so no crests remained on the butts.
    The imperial gift cigarettes were finally discontinued in 2006.
    When my Grandfather was awarded the Rising Sun 2nd Class, he also received a can of tobacco from the emperor, but as he was no smoker, the can still remains in mint condition in my family home. Decrease of the smoker population caused the imperial gift to be switched to sweets instead.  

  9. #9


    Gift from a Red Dog ... Woops! That's what happend when a baka gaijin try to handle kanjis by himself I suppose. At least it means something after all, I could have done worse believe me.

    Many thanks for the correction and the smile you gave me. You answered my two indirect questions which were: what is the proper name for this item, and, are we sure it was awarded only to fallen soldiers' family, unlike onshi no tobacco which was a reward for the living.

    Thank you for your long and comprehensive reply, I've learn a couple more things thanks to you like always. Sorry for the delay but I don't have computer anymore and writing a proper reply with my phone is quite painful.

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