Japan and Manchukuo: South Manchuria Railroad Badge

In the 1920s and 30s the South Manchuria Railroad was important for the Japanese to transport and utilize the natural resources of Manchuria. And of course as the war grew more fierce, the same rail lines were used to transport troops and supplies. The actual company was owned by both the Japanese government and some private organizations. I am not really sure about the particulars, so if you are interested in getting a broad overview, check out the introductory article on Wikipedia.

The name in Japanese was Minami Manshuu Tetsudou Kabushiki Gaisha (南満州鉄道株式会社). Such a long name demands an abbreviation, and the one used was Mantetsu (満鉄). For the next couple of posts I’d like to show some items related to this company. Today I’ll show you a badge, and I chose this as the first one because it clearly shows the official Mantetsu insignia. This insignia seems to be on most items related to the rail company. It consists of the front view of a rail superimposed on what appears to be a rounded ‘M.’

It is a distinctive emblem, one that can be easily and quickly identified. The inscription is written in a classical script. It reads ‘Martial Arts Tournament, Meiji 44 [1911].’ So the company appears to have sponsored a tournament. Actually, this is the reverse of the badge. Here is the obverse:

The brown figures are in the shape of the traditional Japanese shield. Branches of laurel are visible, too. The center kanji reads ‘Prize.’ As a side note, laurel branches are not really one of the traditional symbols in Japanese culture. They seem to have been adopted after the Meiji Restoration along with a lot of other Western symbols. In Japan they symbolize a victory of some sort.


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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Thank you for the wonderful, and somewhat obscure, information. I am currently in Baku, Azerbaijan, where I purchased a Seikosha pocket watch. The emblem on the back attracted my attention, so I began searching for information. Through your images and careful entries, I learned that my watch was used on the South Manchurian Railway. As a coincidence, my wife is from Liaoning. Your blog is well written and researched, informative and interesting. It offers insights on a period and place that are little known to a broader audience, but given the importance of this region to China’s intense industrialization, as well as current population shifts, should be. Thank you.

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