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Paul L Murphy

How to read Japanese certificates masterclass ! !

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I hope to expand this thread into a basic step by step guide to reading the basic information on Japanese award certificates since they are a fascinating subject. To start it off, one of the basic things to know is the period of the award, which can be broken down into Meiji, Taisho, Showa or Heisei. The years of each are detailed elsewhere. Most collectors will only encounter the first three, Heisei certs have not yet started to trickle onto the market in much quantity.

The attachments below show the wording for Meiji, Taisho and Showa as they appear on certificates in that order from left to right. Apologies for the fact that the Taisho scan is larger than the others !

Meiji and Showa certificates are more common than Taisho due to the longer reigns and larger conflicts. Knowing which reign you are looking at is important since the numbers that follow will give the year within that reign and hence allow you to date the certificate.

Russo Japanese War certificates are normally from April Meiji 39 and China Incident certificates are from April Showa 15. These are by far the most common award dates encountered.

Edited by Paul L Murphy

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Let us start off using a Showa period 2nd class Sacred Treasure certificate to point out the key information. Firstly you need to find the date under the reign of the awarding emperor. On this certificate the date appears in two places as outlined in boxes below.

In this example it is Showa 9th Year, 4th month, 29th day. This places it as an award for the Manchurian Incident awarded in April 1934.

Edited by Paul L Murphy

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The date also appears calculated from the reign of Jimmu, the first Japanese emperor. Here the box outlines where it shows. It reads "From the reign of Emperor Jimmu year 2,594". An easy way to remember these dates is the fact that the 2,600th anniversary of the start of Jimmu's reign was in 1940, hence the commemorative medal issued that year.

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Now that we can find the date, we would like to know to whom it was awarded. This is a bit more trickey. On Meiji and Taisho order certificates you will find the military rank detailed before the name, on Showa certificates it is not. Basically the order of naming on Meiji and Taisho certs is : -

Branch of service (army or navy), arm of service, military rank, noble rank (if any), level of previous orders awarded (of any), name.

On Showa certificates you get : -

Noble rank (if any), level of previous orders awarded (of any), name (family name first, then given name).

In the case of this certificate it says "Junior 4th Rank, 3rd Class Order of Merit, 5th Level of Bravery, Hirata Yukihiro".

Order of Merit is the classification for the Rising Sun or Sacred Treasure, Level of Bravery is the classification for the Golden Kite. Hence, we know that the recipient already holds a 5th class Golden Kite and a 3rd class Rising Sun or Sacred Treasure.

The fact that he has a Golden Kite means we know it is a military recipient, otherwise from the naming alone we would not know if it was military or civil.

Edited by Paul L Murphy

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Another piece of information is the entry into the roll for the relevant award. This is a numerical roll in chronological order. The number of this certificate is 867,289 which is shown in the box indicated below. This means it was the 867,289th award of the Sacred Treasure in all classes since its inception. The Japanese count in units of ten thousand so this is actually written as 86 ten thousands, 7,289.

Edited by Paul L Murphy

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Of note on this certificate is the fact that it is hand signed by the emperor, making it very scarce and desirable. The two large characters in the upper centre of the cert above the red square national seal are the emperors given name written in his own hand.

So what does all of this say ? A full translation is as follows : -

The Emperor of Japan who possesses heavenly guidance and is a descendant of the unbroken line of succession hereby confers upon Junior 4th Rank, 3rd Class Order of Merit, 5th Level of Bravery, Hirata Yukihiro the 2nd grade of the Meiji order and awards the order of the sacred treasure. He is entitled to the privileges and honourable treatment accorded to this rank.

2,594th year after the coronation of Emperor Jimmu, 29th April 9th year of Showa, the imperial seal is affixed in Tokyo Imperial Palace.

Imperial Seal

29th April 9th year of Showa

Shimojo Yasumaro, Junior 3rd rank and holder of the 1st order of merit. Director General, Bureau of merit & awards.

Registered as number 867,289 and recorded in the medal roll.

Moriyama ?ichi, 5th rank and holder of the 4th order of merit. Secretary, Bureau of merit & awards.

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That's all for today folks ! Questions are welcome and I will do a Meiji period order certificate next so that you can see the similarities, and more important the differences, between the two.

Regards,

Paul

Edited by Paul L Murphy

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Here is a Meiji period document. One difference I notice is that the date is absent immediately to the left of the emperor's mark. I'll leave any further commentary to the resident experts! :)

GK7thClassMeiji.jpg

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With regards to the Imperial Seal in the center of the document, how is the 1st kanji read? I can't find it for the life of me. I believe the others are read as Nippon Koku Ji (correct me if I'm wrong on that last one!), but what is that first one above ? Is it an ultra-stylized form of by chance?

Edited by Dieter3

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With regards to the Imperial Seal in the center of the document, how is the 1st kanji read? I can't find it for the life of me. I believe the others are read as Nippon Koku Ji (correct me if I'm wrong on that last one!), but what is that first one above ? Is it an ultra-stylized form of by chance?

You are correct, it is a highly stylised version of Dai. It reads Dainipponkokuji, the seal of the Greater Japanese Nation.

Meiji certificates do not have the date to the left of the seal, this only occurs on Taisho and Showa era certs.

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Ah ha! Thank you for that confirmation. I was looking at another item earlier today that made use of the plain, old hiragana DAI character in front of NIPPON, it made sense that it'd be this, but wanted somebody to confirm.

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Ah ha! Thank you for that confirmation. I was looking at another item earlier today that made use of the plain, old hiragana DAI character in front of NIPPON, it made sense that it'd be this, but wanted somebody to confirm.

I think you mean a plain old kanji Dai. Hiragana is the phoenetic script so it would not be Dai as one character but two hiragana for Da I.

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I think you mean a plain old kanji Dai. Hiragana is the phoenetic script so it would not be Dai as one character but two hiragana for Da I.

Correct!! Brain flatulence prevails yet again....:blush:

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That's all for today folks ! Questions are welcome and I will do a Meiji period order certificate next so that you can see the similarities, and more important the differences, between the two.

Regards,

Paul

Just stumbled on this thread whiost browsing. I didn't see the Meiji or Taisho examples. Did you ever get around to posting them...or do we have to wait for the book?

Hugh

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There are some Taisho and Showa era certs posted in other threads within the Japanese forum. Apologies for not getting around to posting them here in this thread.

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There are some Taisho and Showa era certs posted in other threads within the Japanese forum. Apologies for not getting around to posting them here in this thread.

I'm afraid I must have sounded petulant in my last post - didn't mean to. We're all very grateful for the wealth of information you bring to this forum.

Thanks,

Hugh

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I'm afraid I must have sounded petulant in my last post - didn't mean to. We're all very grateful for the wealth of information you bring to this forum.

Thanks,

Hugh

No need to apologise, I did not think it in any way petulant. It was a perfectly reasonable question.

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Hi Paul,

I am new to Gmic, and since I am a longtime collector of worldwide ODM I find this site quite interesting. As I have lived in Japan for some time, I have been able to collect Japanese ODM including the certificates. Your Masterclass on Japanese certificates is very useful, especially since the average collector would not be able to read them. If I may add some information which you will know already, but may be interesting to other readers. When the document would be signed by the Emperor the first column on the righthand side of the seal will read something like " under Our sign manual and affixed with the Imperial seal " wheras a certificate without the signature would only mention the Imperial seal. Interesting is that during the last year of his reign Emperor Meiji was sometimes too ill to take care of affairs of state. Certificates that would usually carry his signature were issued with only the Imperial seal, but the text on the certificate would still say under Our sign manual etc. I presume these certificates are scarce.

As you mentioned already elsewhere in this thread, when the Taisho Emperor became longterm ill, Crown Prince Hirohito became regent, and he signed with both his father's and his own name. If I remember correctly you wrote that you have such a certificate for the Rising Sun with Paulonia Flowers, awarded to a Brish Field Marshall. I don't have the figures including foreigners, but the number of Rising Sun with Paulownia Flowers awarded to Japanese during the regency is 20, and these certificates are therefore quite rare.

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Many thanks for your comments and information. I have seen a couple of the Meiji era certs without the signature and despite the fact that they are very rare they tend to sell for less than correctly signed certs. I think it is because the Japanese collectors value the signature a lot.

My avatar is the cert for the Rising Sun with Pawlonia Flowers to Field Marshal Lord French, and it is rare !

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Hello to any and all dear experts

I am in great need of your help for translate a 2nd class sacred treasure document hand signed by Meiji emperor.

Someone told me that it was awarded to a french colonial administrator in Indochina. Is that rignt ? and what is his name ? It seems to me according to Paul's excellent article "How to read japanese certificate..." that  :

the number of recording is 667; the year Jimmu 1896 ? and era Meiji 29 ??? but I have a problem to understand the date is it 18 ? 29 ? of July ? I don't understand a Kanji.

For the rest of the document it's of course a great mystery that I hope somebody will help me to solve. I would like to know if this person had other japanese order.

Thanks for your precious help

Patout

dipl.1.jpg

dipl.2.jpg

dipl.3.jpg

dipl.4.jpg

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Thank you, one thousand thanks Nick to have bring this person out of the shadow where he was for several years.

I'm now going to be able to learn about this chap a little more.

Thank you again to have devoted time to help me in this search.

Regards

Patout

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