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-   -   Introduction to Order Citations Signed by Emperors (http://www.wehrmacht-awards.com/forums/showthread.php?t=348221)

Nick Komiya 04-04-2009 04:48 PM

Introduction to Order Citations Signed by Emperors
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This is going to be one of my long article posts with 20 photos, so please let me finish before commenting.

I suppose once in a while, we can use something other than the usual “What’s this?”, “What does it say?”, “What’s it worth?” business. Here’s something new for a change.

For people who don’t read Japanese, paper items are usually unfamiliar and uncharted territory. There really isn’t any substantial information out there in English in this area. So in an attempt to rectify that in a small measure, here’s an introduction to order citations that carry the signatures of Japanese Emperors.

These are highly collectable in more ways than one, firstly, because the signatures are real, personally signed by the Emperor himself, unlike the many “fake” Hitler signatures on German Knights Cross documents that carry a facsimile autograph. Secondly, they are for orders that are rare and collectable in their own right. Thirdly, they carry names of recipients which are in most cases researchable, and lastly once again, unlike Knights Cross documents, currently there are no fakes out there to spoil the fun.

Though all Japanese orders are awarded in the name of the emperor, orders that got the emperor’s personal attention in the form of his signature gradually changed with time, becoming limited to higher and higher orders, as larger scale wars increased the number of winners. The practice of awarding orders was imported into Japan in the reign of Emperor Meiji (Mutsuhito) and carried over into the reigns of Emperor Taisho (Yoshihito) and Emperor Showa (Hirohito), so orders up until the end of WW2 can have either of those 3 signatures, or for a brief period of transition between Taisho and Showa, 2 signatures at the same time.

When the Order of the Rising Sun was instituted in 1875, they did not have proper citations yet, but within the next year an official form emerged that became the standard (this citation design was applied to the citation of the 1874 War Medal as well). At this time the wording that had the emperor bestowing the orders were taken quite literally by the emperor, as he appears to have signed all citations. See the 6th class citation below from 1878 signed by Mutsuhito.

Nick Komiya 04-04-2009 04:52 PM

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The citation design was also utilized for Japan's first campaign medal, the 1874 War Medal's Citation shown below. Later on medals will have different and simpler designs than those of orders, but this kind of segmentation did not exist in the early days of Meiji.

Nick Komiya 04-04-2009 04:55 PM

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This must have been a handful, as when on Feb. 26, 1886 Edict Number 1 launched the “Official Documentation Practice” that defined the document formats of laws and fiats, article 16 stipulated that “Order Citations for 3rd class and above are to be personally signed by the emperor, after which, the National Stamp is to be affixed.” At this stage only the Order of the Rising Sun and the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Chrysanthemum existed, so this reduced the citations requiring the emperor’s attention to only 4 types. Thus Mutsuhito’s cleared out a lot of paperwork from his “in-tray” with this edict.

Sometime between 1890 and 1895, the intricate and subdued wreath & floral pattern that framed the citations were revamped into the much bolder style that continues today. My guess, without having checked examples from the years in between, is that this was done in 1890 at the time the Golden Kites were introduced

Here's a close-up of the top wreath of the old citations.

Nick Komiya 04-04-2009 04:56 PM

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The new wreath

Nick Komiya 04-04-2009 04:58 PM

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Old fringe featuring realistic-looking chrysanthemums

Nick Komiya 04-04-2009 05:00 PM

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New fringe with stylized mums

Nick Komiya 04-04-2009 05:06 PM

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The aforementioned edict was in effect for 21 years until the end of January 1907, by which time many things had happened that required some maintenance to the laws. The Constitution had been established, the Sino Japanese and the Russo Japanese Wars had been won, other orders like the Sacred Treasure and Golden Kite were now all there. On February 1st, 1907 “The Official Formats Act” took over the business of establishing rules for issuing citations. As one would expect, winning major wars had elevated the prestige of the Order of the Golden Kite, and the Act recognized this by stipulating that now orders “3rd Class and above and Golden Kites 5th Class and above” were to have the citations signed personally by the emperor. Note that the Golden Kite is addressed separately, as they were not regarded as true orders that signified advancement in social rank as in the case of the Rising Suns and Sacred Treasures ( in Japanese, 3rd “class” in the case of Rising Suns and Sacred Treasures is “Kun 3 To”, whereas for the Golden Kite it is “Kou 3 Kyu”, a distinction that you will miss in English” ).

However, this act didn’t actually introduce the emperor’s signature onto the Golden Kite documents for the first time, as that practice had been going on for more than 10 years before the “paperwork” caught up in this way. As shown in this example of the Golden Kite 5th Class citation dated 1895, common sense had overridden the rule set in 1886 to acknowledge the Golden Kites with his personal signature when the award went through the first war (Sino Japanese War) since its establishment in 1890. Golden Kites won in the Sino Japanese War were only about 3000 altogether and at this time you pretty much needed to be an officer to win the 5th class, so occasions that required the emperor’s signature would have been scarce enough to keep the pile of citations in his “In-tray” to a manageable level. It is my opinion that the practice of the emperor signing the Golden Kite citations began in late 1894 or from 1895. In July 1894 the pension scheme for Golden Kites was established and then in the end of November of that same year, Imperial Edict number 193 defined which ranks could be awarded which class of the Kite on the first instance of award. Without this clarification, the awarding of Golden Kites for the Sino Japanese War would have created a big confused mess. All these changes required new forms and the wording on the Golden Kite documents must have been changed at this time. The wording of the documents signed by the emperor specifically mentioned the emperor “ affixes his signature personally, and allows the national stamp to be affixed at the Tokyo Imperial Palace”, so he could not have simply signed citations prepared for issue without his signature. No legal amendments were made to reflect this new practice, but it was not something that happened at the emperor’s whim.

A Golden Kite 5th Class citation signed by emperor Meiji in 1895, proof that signing of Kite documents were already in practice before the Act of 1907

Nick Komiya 04-04-2009 05:08 PM

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The emperor's signature and the National Stamp

Nick Komiya 04-04-2009 05:09 PM

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Another 1906 example

Nick Komiya 04-04-2009 05:11 PM

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After the above revisions, which all took place during the Meiji period, the Act itself saw no revisions during the reign of Emperor Taisho as far as citations were concerned. However, Emperor Taisho (Yoshihito) was a sickly man and from the 8th year of his reign, his son, Hirohito (later Emperor Showa) had to take over the job of emperor when he was declared Regent on November 25th, 1919 until December 25th ,1926 when Yoshihito died. During these 7 years, Hirohito signed on behalf of his father by writing Yoshihito and adding Hirohito beside it. Citations of this period are scarce, because it was in between WW1 and WW2.

Rising Sun 2nd class with double signature from 1922

Nick Komiya 04-04-2009 05:15 PM

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And a Sacred Treasure 2nd class with double signature from 1926, which is the final year of the double signature series, as Yoshihoto died that Christmas bringing in the Showa era

Nick Komiya 04-04-2009 05:21 PM

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A close-up of how Hirohito "faked" his father's signature. Notice how the second character in both names prove they're both in the same hand

Nick Komiya 04-04-2009 05:22 PM

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In April of the 11th year of the reign of Emperor Showa (1936), the word used for emperor in the citation was changed. Until this time, the word was “Koutei”, the generic Japanese word for emperor applied to Nero, The Kaiser, etc. It was switched to the uniquely Japanese “Tenno”, which is not used to refer to foreign emperors. This change in wording did not involve any legal maintenance.

Here is the pre-36 version showing the top part of the first two lines of a citation.

Nick Komiya 04-04-2009 05:25 PM

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Compare the top 5 characters of the second line in the above with the next one after the 1936 change.

Nick Komiya 04-04-2009 05:29 PM

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The next change to the practice of the emperor signing citations came at the time of the mass issuance of awards on 29th April, 1940, when the China Incident Medal was awarded along with Rising Suns and Golden Kites all at the same time. From this point on the emperor would only sign documents for 1st Class Orders and 2nd Class Golden Kites and above. Once again the legal backing for this revised practice only came after the deed in Edict 922, dated December 28th, 1940.

Here a Golden Kite 3rd Class citation from 1906 with Emperor Meiji's signature

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