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Order of the Golden Kite - How to date them


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The Order of the Golden Kite was imperial Japan?s highest award for military bravery. It could only be awarded to Japanese servicemen with the class of award based on the rank of the recipient. After April 1940 it was decreed that the order would only be granted posthumously until such time as Japan achieved victory in The Great East Asian War. Reference books regarding Japanese medals, in particular Peterson?s book Orders and Decorations of Japan and Associated States make reference to the fact that early examples of the Order of the Golden Kite have a kite with a more pronounced ?droop? in the wings. Unless you have compared various examples it can be difficult for the collector, especially the new collector, to determine which variety he holds. The intention of this thread is to point out a number of specific differences between the earlier Meiji/Taisho Golden Kites, and later pieces.

The first point that should be made is that the earlier awards are far scarcer than later pieces. In terms of numbers awarded, there were more posthumous awards made between 1940 and 1945 than in the history of the order up to that date.

Most of these awards were of the 7th class with the 5th class being the next most common. The 6th class was awarded to NCOs and is actually scarcer than the 5th class, which was normally awarded to junior officers. Unfortunately it is not possible to specify how many were awarded in each class since the records were destroyed in the bombing of Tokyo during the war.

Points to Note on 6th and 7th Class Orders

There are many small differences between the earlier and later Golden Kites but my intention here is to focus on three main differences which do not require the use of measuring equipment, or the need to memorise small differences in shape.

1) Wings

The description normally used to describe the earlier pieces is that they have a drooped wing. Picture 1 shows the wings of an early Meiji period 7th class award.

Edited by Paul L Murphy
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Picture 2 shows the wings of a Showa period award. There are many small differences but the key difference to note is the position of the longest wing feather. On early awards, the third feather from the top is the longest feather. On later pieces the second feather from the top is the longest. This is what makes the earlier wings appear to droop. This is probably the most obvious difference between the two pieces.

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2) Banner markings between sword suspenders

The central part of the Golden Kite has a Japanese katana suspended vertically with two banners criss-crossing behind it. On the right hand side of the sword there are two protrusions which represent sword hangers. Part of each banner appears between these protrusions on the right hand side. On the early pieces, Picture 4, the design of a roundal appears on each part, ie. there are two roundals to be seen between the swords hangers. On the later pieces, Picture 5, only the top roundal appears, ie. only one roundal can be seen between the sword hangers.

In my opinion this is the easiest way to tell the difference between a Meiji/Taisho period piece and a Showa period piece.

Edited by Paul L Murphy
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3) Banner Ends

The third main difference appears on the final part of the banners which criss-cross behind the sword. On each of these there are four roundals. On the earlier pieces the first roundal almost touches the point at which the banner crosses above it, Picture 6. On the later pieces there is a noticable space between the cross-over and the uppermost roundal, Picture 7.

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