Japanese Imperial Regalia: Sword, Mirror, and Jewels

Yesterday I showed a 1934 badge that had the three Imperial Regalia of Japan, so I thought that I would explain these in a bit more detail and include the kanji for those interested. Of course, Wikipedia has some interesting articles on these, and you should go there for more information. I’ll link each object with the Wikipedia article, so click on the links if you wish.

There are three traditional treasures of the Japanese Imperial Throne, and each has a name.

First, there is the sword, originally called Ama no Murakumo no Tsurugi (天叢雲剣), which translates into Sword of the Gathering Clouds of Heaven. It has three nicknames, the first of which is what it is usually refered to: Kusanagi no Tsurugi (草薙剣). Also known as Tsumugari no Tachi (都牟刈の大刀) and Yaegaki no Tsurugi (八重垣剣). One may wonder why so many names have been attached to this sword, and sorry to say I cannot tell you. 

The sword symbolizes valor. It is said to be held at the Atsuta Shrine in Nagoya, but since it is never shown to the public (or to anyone, as far as I know), most people think it doesn’t exist.

Second is the Sacred Mirror. This is called Yata no Kagami (八咫鏡), and it is said to be held at the Ise Shrine, though again, it is never shown. It represents honesty and wisdom.

Third are the Sacred Jewels. These are called Yasakani no Magatama (八尺瓊勾玉). For some reason, this phrase is also written as 八坂瓊曲玉, kanji that are pronounced the same.  These are comma-shaped jewels that either appear alone or on a necklace. They represent benevolence. These are said to be in the Tokyo Imperial Palace, though as with the other sacred treasures, they are never exhibited.

On the following badge you can see all three treasures. The outline, somewhat circular with ridges, is the traditional Sacred Mirror shape. The long diagonal staff that extends behind the center banner is the sword, and I have labeled the magatama jewels. In this example they are on a necklace.

japanese ww2 badge medal

These three are often used as symbols on pre-1945 Japanese badges, cups, medals, and other items. They can appear alone or in combination. Since most Japanese recognize them, the symbols were used extensively, especially the Sacred Mirror, which was often used as an outline element to contain other figures.

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