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Daimyo flags, 15th - 17th century

Last modified: 2002-03-29 by phil nelson
Keywords: kuni | japan: kuni | daimyo |
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Unification of Japan

During 1467-1614 there were lots of wars for state's unification among Daimyos who ruled in Kuni (state) . Japan was composed of 68 Kunis in those times and the names are totally different from current name of Japanese prefectues.

The daimyos divided into two groups: West Japan and East Japan. At both battles, the West was defeated by the East led by Tokugawa Ieyasu who became Shogun for the victory and his Tokugawa family ruled Japan without serious civil war till 1868 when Meiji Emperor restored political power from Shogun. In the Tokugawa era about 250 years daimyo flags were not often used and developed due to lack of chance (little war). Images of some flags Tokugawa era are rectangle flags with simpler design than flags in warring period (1467-1614).

The daimyo flags were mainly used as banner at war and basically father/sons/brothers even in a same family used different flags. This is why we will see so many Daimyo flags.

The three most famous daimyo are:

Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582) the prime mover of Japan's 16th century reunification after a hundred years of strife.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598) the warlord and he could for the first time truly claim that he had extended his regime nationwide into which provincial lords were integrated.

Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616) the Shogun warrior chieftan who outwitting many of his major contemporaries and outliving and outprocreating the rest, survived Japan's late 16th century wars of unification with victories at the battles of Sekigahara (1600) and Osaka (1614).

The Daimyos tried to march in to old capital Kyoto where the Emperor lived.

The Daimyo flags particularly during warring period were used in one Kuni and also more than one Kunis from time to time. The daimyo fought against each other starting with fight with neighbor to rule the next Kuni. If he succeeded he expanded his territory (Kuni).

This is just like World Cup, the grand champion being a Shogun who controls whole Japan as the best player (Daimyo of Daimyos).

The vertical flag called Nobori-hata is, I believe, War Flag in English which belongs to an organization always placed in the center of camp in battle field and the square flag called Uma-jirushi is a kind of rank flag which is a General 's flag at war, basically personal flag.

Uma means horse; jirushi is sign or mark. There were no other rank flags basically.

The Japanese mon is too complicated to distinguish it from other mons if they were used in a flag at war. In order to tell who is an enemy and an ally at war the simple flag was required. Japanese warriors did not have shield to protect themselves like European knights. That's why they used much more flags at war for identity.

The size of vertical flag is around 4m x 0.7m and square one 2m x 2m.

The Daimyo flag is believed to have the God of War live in them, thus flags had been placed in a valuable box and stored in a special room of the Daimyo in other circumstances.

In the castle, flags were not used but each samurai on duty wore ceremonial kimono called Kamishimo which has mon to identify his family in usually three places.

The kuni was not stable politically but physically geographically stable for long time. The number and the size of kunis 68 remained unchanged and lots of Daimyo had come and gone thru the kuni during warring period.

Some Daimyo ruled 2-3 kunis and on the other hands some kuni was ruled by 2-3 Daimyos from time to time.
Nozomi Kariyasu, June and July 2000

Kuni of Japan

There were two kuni named Awa, one in present-day Chiba and another in present-day Tokushima. Although the pronounciation is the same they are written different in Chinese characters. The first Awa was ruled by Satomi Daimyo, whose flag is not available, while the second was ruled by Hachisuka Yoshishige(1586-1620).
. Nozomi Kariyasu, 19 October 2000

** - Link-only page to daimyos who ruled multiple kuni. See below.
*** - No flag, mon image only.

Editorial Note: some pages load slowly due to image sizes.

Mutsu Kai Settsu Bingo
Dewa Shinano Tanba ** Izumo **
Sado ** Hida *** Wakasa Iwami **
Echigo Suruga ** Tango ** Aki **
Ecchu ** Toutoumi Oki Nagato
Echizen Mikawa Tajima Suou
Noto ** Mino Inaba Tsushima
Kaga Owari Harima ** Iki
Kouzuke Ohmi Awaji Chikuzen **
Shimotuke Iga ** Sanuki Chikugo **
Hitachi Ise Awa Hizen
Musashi Shima Tosa Buzen
Shimofusa Kii Iyo Bungo
Kazusa Yamato Houki *** Higo
Awa *** Izumi ** Mimasaka Hyuga
Sagami ** Kawachi ** Bizen ** Osumi **
Izu Yamashiro ** Bicchu Satsuma **

What area does the kuni represent today? See our kuni-prefecture conversion page.


Daimyos who ruled multiple kuni

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