Mon is the Japanese word for an emblem. Comprising of bold, symbolic elements, mon are used in Japan to identify a group, an individual or an institution. Kamon is the Japanese word for a family emblem or symbol which identifies ancestry. Kamon are thought to have been first used by noble families at the end of the Heian Period (794–1185) to mark possessions. They appeared on flags, clothes, furniture, buildings and personal items. Today, there are many thousands of distinct kamon, for example the chrysanthemum seal is used by the Imperial family of Japan and can also be found on the Japanese passport.
In European countries, many noble families had a coat of arms and crest as a symbol of identity. In Sir John and Lady de Hardreshull, panel, 14th century, the Lord and Lady hold up their family coat of arms, which features birds on the shield (martlets).
Introduce your students to the related works of art and use the following discussion prompts to explore the formation and expression of family identity:
Students design and print their own emblem using the following steps:
Students can show their emblem to the class and mount them as a display to form a class portrait.