This page is part of © FOTW Flags Of The World website

Daimyo flags, 15th - 17th century (Japan)

Last modified: 2023-07-08 by zachary harden
Keywords: kuni | japan: kuni | daimyo |
Links: FOTW homepage | search | disclaimer and copyright | write us | mirrors

See also:

Unification of Japan

During 1467-1614 there were lots of wars for state's unification among Daimyos who ruled in Kuni (state) . Japan was composed of 68 Kunis in those times and the names are totally different from current name of Japanese prefectures.
The daimyos divided into two groups: West Japan and East Japan. At both battles, the West was defeated by the East led by Tokugawa Ieyasu who became Shogun for the victory and his Tokugawa family ruled Japan without serious civil war till 1868 when Meiji Emperor restored political power from Shogun. In the Tokugawa era about 250 years daimyo flags were not often used and developed due to lack of chance (little war). Images of some flags Tokugawa era are rectangle flags with simpler design than flags in warring period (1467-1614).
The daimyo flags were mainly used as banner at war and basically father/sons/brothers even in a same family used different flags. This is why we will see so many Daimyo flags.
The three most famous daimyo are:
Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582) the prime mover of Japan's 16th century reunification after a hundred years of strife.
Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598) the warlord and he could for the first time truly claim that he had extended his regime nationwide into which provincial lords were integrated.
Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616) the Shogun warrior chieftain who outwitting many of his major contemporaries and outliving and out-procreating the rest, survived Japan's late 16th century wars of unification with victories at the battles of Sekigahara (1600) and Osaka (1614).
The Daimyos tried to march in to old capital Kyoto where the Emperor lived.
The Daimyo flags particularly during warring period were used in one Kuni and also more than one Kunis from time to time. The daimyo fought against each other starting with fight with neighbor to rule the next Kuni. If he succeeded he expanded his territory (Kuni).
This is just like World Cup, the grand champion being a Shogun who controls whole Japan as the best player (Daimyo of Daimyos).
The vertical flag called Nobori-hata is, I believe, War Flag in English which belongs to an organization always placed in the center of camp in battle field and the square flag called Uma-jirushi is a kind of rank flag which is a General 's flag at war, basically personal flag.
Uma means horse; jirushi is sign or mark. There were no other rank flags basically.
The Japanese mon is too complicated to distinguish it from other mons if they were used in a flag at war. In order to tell who is an enemy and an ally at war the simple flag was required. Japanese warriors did not have shield to protect themselves like European knights. That's why they used much more flags at war for identity.
The size of vertical flag is around 4m x 0.7m and square one 2m x 2m.
The Daimyo flag is believed to have the God of War live in them, thus flags had been placed in a valuable box and stored in a special room of the Daimyo in other circumstances.
In the castle, flags were not used but each samurai on duty wore ceremonial kimono called Kamishimo which has mon to identify his family in usually three places.
The kuni was not stable politically but physically geographically stable for long time. The number and the size of kunis 68 remained unchanged and lots of Daimyo had come and gone thru the kuni during warring period.
Some Daimyo ruled 2-3 kunis and on the other hands some kuni was ruled by 2-3 Daimyos from time to time.
Nozomi Kariyasu, June and July 2000

[War banners]
by Nozomi Kariyasu, 10 February 2023

In the period of warring factions, from the Onin War of 1467 to the Tensho War of 1573, when the Muromachi shogunate was overthrown by Oda Nobunaga, and then to the Genna War of 1615, when Tokugawa Ieyasu established the shogunate and overthrew the Toyotomi family that succeeded Nobunaga, many warlords appeared and many military flags were made. In this period, the fighting style changed from single combat to group warfare, and various flags were used to identify friend and foe, as well as to show one's whereabouts and war merits. “Hatajirushi"旗印 was a long, vertical war banner that was erected at the main camp as a flag for the troops, and was also called "Jinbata" 陣旗(a flag in the camp). It was used from the Warring States Period to the Edo Period. Generally, the flag bearer of a feudal lord was an ashigaru (foot soldier) who did not engage in combat. There were two types of flag shapes. The "Nagare-bata" 流旗or "Tenaga-bata" 手長旗was a long, thin flag with a pole at the top and a string tied at one end to the top of the flagpole. This type of flag is said to have appeared around the time of the Genpei wars. “Nobori-bata”,幟旗the war banner flag, also known as “a Chitsuki-bata" 乳付旗banner flag with nipples," is a rectangular flag cloth with several small pieces of cloth or leather called "nipples" regularly lined up and threaded through the flagpole so that the design of the flag can be distinguished from a flowing banner that is long and windswept and sometimes difficult to see. According to "Honcho Gunki Kou" compiled by Hakuseki Arai , the origin of the Nobori-bata war banner flag is said to have been a banner that Masanaga Hatakeyama attached nipples to the banner of his own army and hung it from a pole during the battle of Takeyama Castle in Kawachi Province over the family rights of Yoshinari Hatakeyama and his family in 1463. In fact, it appears in picture scrolls from the Genpei period (710-794). It is also thought that the banner with nipples was used even earlier as a long religious banner with a divine name or inscription.
Nozomi Kariyasu, 10 February 2023

General information

I have some general questions. 1. Did the old Japanese draw their flags by hand or did they use printing techniques? 2. Did they also have the special office of flag bearers in the battle (which was a honorable office in Europe), who had to take care that the own flag didn't get lost because this was a very shameful thing? 3. Did they also display conquered flags from the enemy in their temples, like in Europe where enemy flags were displayed in churches?
Martin Karner, 12 February 2023

1. Did the old Japanese draw their flags by hand or did they use printing techniques?
They did both case by case.
2. Did they also have the special office of flag bearers in the battle (which was a honorable office in Europe), who had to take care that the own flag didn't get lost because this was a very shameful thing?
There was a special position called Hata-Bugyo. Hata Bugyo is one of the positions in the Edo Shogunate and other domains. He commanded the flag, banners, and the foot soldiers who handled them, and made the position of the fixtures known both inside and outside, while at the same time showing off his military prowess. Although he did not take part in the battle, his role was important because the position of the fixtures would appear to be unstable if the banner was disordered. In the case of a main position, there were cases in which a substitute commander (such as a warrior magistrate) was appointed so that the general would concentrate on overall command, but the flag magistrate sometimes took command of the main position by deciding the course of the position.
3. Did they also display conquered flags from the enemy in their temples, like in Europe where enemy flags were displayed in churches?
I do not hear about taking home and displaying flags of the defeated army.
Nozomi Kariyasu, 12 February 2023

Kuni of Japan

There were two kuni named Awa, one in present-day Chiba and another in present-day Tokushima. Although the pronunciation is the same they are written different in Chinese characters. The first Awa was ruled by Satomi Daimyo, whose flag is not available, while the second was ruled by Hachisuka Yoshishige(1586-1620).
. Nozomi Kariyasu, 19 October 2000

** - Link-only page to daimyos who ruled multiple kuni. See below.
*** - No flag, mon image only.

Editorial Note: some pages load slowly due to image sizes.

Mutsu Kai Settsu Bingo
Dewa Shinano Tanba ** Izumo **
Sado ** Hida *** Wakasa Iwami **
Echigo Suruga ** Tango ** Aki **
Ecchu ** Toutoumi Oki Nagato
Echizen Mikawa Tajima Suou
Noto ** Mino Inaba Tsushima
Kaga Owari Harima ** Iki
Kouzuke Ohmi Awaji Chikuzen **
Shimotuke Iga ** Sanuki Chikugo **
Hitachi Ise Awa Hizen
Musashi Shima Tosa Buzen
Shimofusa Kii Iyo Bungo
Kazusa Yamato Houki *** Higo
Awa *** Izumi ** Mimasaka Hyuga
Sagami ** Kawachi ** Bizen ** Osumi **
Izu Yamashiro ** Bicchu Satsuma **

What area does the kuni represent today? See our kuni-prefecture conversion page.


Daimyos who ruled multiple kuni

Daimyos who ruled in one kuni

Mutsu Matsushita Shigetsuna
Katou Yoshiaki
Tsugaru Nobuhiro
Nanbu Toshinao
Dewa Akita Toshisue
Tozawa Masamori
Akita Sanesue
Echigo Mizoguchi Nobunao
Hori Naoyori
Echizen Niwa Nagashige
Outani Yoshitsugu
Kaga Maeda Toshitsune
Kuozuke Ando Shigenaga
Makino Yasunari
Sakai Tadayo
Sakakibara Yasukatu
Maeda Toshitaka
Sanada Nobuyoshi
Maeda Toshitaka
Matsudaira Yamatonokami
Shimotuke Otawara Harukiyo
Asano Nagashige
Hori Chikayousi
Hitachi Satake Yoshinobu
Inaba Masakatu
Musashi Matsushita Nakatsukasa
Torii Tadamasa
Shimofusa Doi Toshikatsu
Kazusa Naito Masanaga
Awa Satomi family
Izu Hojyo Ujimune
Kai Takeda Shingen
Shinano Ogasawara Tadamasa
Ogasawara Hindemasa
Hoshina Masamitsu
Sanada Noboyoshi
Hida Kanamori family
Toutoumi Inoue Masatoshi
Mikawa Makino Tadanari
Matsudaira Nobuyoshi
Matsudaira Tadanao
Nagai Naokatsu
Tokugawa Ieyasu
Mino Ikeda Tadatsugu
Ikeda Toshitaka
Oda Yorinaga
Owari Oda Nobunaga
Tokugawa Yoshinao
Ohmi Ishida Mitsunari
Ii Naotaka
Ise Mukai Tadakatsu
Hijikata Katsushige
Furuta Shigekatsu
Shima Kuki Moritaka
Kii Asano Yoshinaga
Tokugawa Yorinobu
Yamato Honda Toshitugu
Settsu Ohno Harunaga
Ohno Harufusa
Nakajima Ujitane
Aoki Kazushige
Katagiri Katsumoto
Matsudaira Tadaaki
Wakasa Kyougoku Tadataka
Oki Goto Motsotugu
Tajima Asano Nagaakira
Inaba Kamei Shigemasa
Harima Honda Tadamasa
Awaji Wakisaka Yasumoto
Ban Naoyuki
Sanuki Ikoma Kazumasu
Awa Hachisuka Yoshishige
Tosa Yamanouchi Kazutoyo
Chousokabe Morichika
Iyo Ogawa Suketada
Nonomura Masharu
Houki Nanjyo family
Mimasaka Mori Tadamasa
Bicchu Itoh Nagatsugu
Kinoshita Toshifusa
Bingo Mizuno Katsunari
Nagato Mouri Hidenari
Suou Itakura Shigemune
Tsushima So Yoshinari
Hizen Nabeshima Katsushige
Ishikawa Yasukatsu
Matsukura Shigemasa
Terasawa Hirotaka
Buzen Mouri Katsunaga
Sengoku Hidenori
Bungo Mano Yorikane
Mouri Takamasa
Akiba Norimichi
Higo Konishi Yukinaga
Hyuga Shimazu Toyohisa