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Introduction to Order Citations Signed by Emperors
Old 04-04-2009, 04:48 PM   #1
Nick Komiya
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Default Introduction to Order Citations Signed by Emperors

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.
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File Type: jpg 1.Sun Citation from 1878.jpg (30.9 KB, 382 views)
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Old 04-04-2009, 04:52 PM   #2
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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.
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Old 04-04-2009, 04:55 PM   #3
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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.
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Old 04-04-2009, 04:56 PM   #4
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The new wreath
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Old 04-04-2009, 04:58 PM   #5
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Old fringe featuring realistic-looking chrysanthemums
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Old 04-04-2009, 05:00 PM   #6
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New fringe with stylized mums
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Old 04-04-2009, 11:00 PM   #7
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Quote:
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.

AMEN to that Nick! Great post btw.
Scott
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Old 04-05-2009, 03:12 AM   #8
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Nick, thankyou for taking the time to educate us! This is one aspect of the hobby that I personally find most interesting - learning from those that can not only translate the language, but can also unravel some intricacies and details that would otherwise be lost to interested collectors, and bringing new meaning and understanding to some of these items. Great job!

Regards

Russ
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Old 04-05-2009, 05:05 PM   #9
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Excellent post! I appreciate the time and effort--and I learned a lot.
I have one question only related to your topic in an ancillary way... I noticed the 1874 War Medal document. (What a treasure! Perhaps rarer than the actual medal.) Any information about how many of these medals were awarded? I know that Peterson mentioned that 3000 samurai were dispatched. Did other people also receive this medal? (Sorry if this is off topic.)
Cheers,
Rich
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Old 04-06-2009, 03:56 AM   #10
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The actual number of the Japanese troops sent to Taiwan was 3568. Most accounts round this up to 3600. Of that number there were 531 deaths, so the number of medals given out would have been just slightly over 3000, I think.
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Old 04-06-2009, 04:38 AM   #11
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Now the mystery over the disapearance of the emperor's signature from 3rd class order citations is solved. Edict number 145 issued on April 26, 1921 says at the very end, which is why I missed it before, the Act is revised so that the emperor's signature will only be affixed to Orders 2nd Class and above and for Golden Kites 3rd Class and above. However, as we have already seen, the practice probably preceded this amendment. So my guess was right that the change occured when Hirohito was forced to sign on his father's behalf as Regent.
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