The oldest kamon mentioned in ancient documents was the “Tomoe-mon” made between 1032 and 1091 which consisted of patterns drawn on “Gissha” (oxcarts) to differentiate between owners.
In other cases existing designs found on buildings and clothing were adopted as family kamon. There were also original designs based on a motif that expressed a particular desired meaning, as in the case of the work I have been doing. Traditionally a person who created kamon was called “uwaeshi”, and there are still uwaeshi today, although most of them use their skills to reproduce ancient kamon on kimono, rather than to create new designs.
Characteristic of the Kamon in Historical Times
Heian Period [ year 794- ]
This era saw the birth of kamon, which were mainly used by the nobility.
Kamakura Period [ year 1185- ]
Kamon were used as crests in simple designs to easily distinguish between ally and foe on the battlefield.
Muromachi Period [ year 1336- ]
Kamon using illustrations, similar to modern coats-of-arms, met the heightened needs of war.
Edo Period [ year 1603- ]
This was the heyday for kamon with many peaceful motifs employed during the prolonged period of peace, after so many years of war. Kamon were initially used only by families of high rank and samurai but they began to spread to the common people. The number of kamon also increased significantly, designs were surrounded by circles, and a symmetrical form came to be popular. They came to be used as decoration.
Maiji Period [ year 1868- ]
In the early Meiji era, people who did not previously have a last name were able to have one, and this contributed to the increase in family kamon. Under the influence of various imports from foreign countries the interest of people came to be focused on new designs. Many young people today do not know the kamon of their own families, but for the past several years there has been a renewed interest in kamon designs.