Samurai heraldry is complicated, and much of what you’ll find, online or in books, comes from the Edo period or even later, rather than from the Sengoku period (1467-1615) when banners were actually used in battle.
Sources, primary and secondary, often contradict each other, and some families, and even individuals, changed the symbols they or their used several times. Others changed their clan names while keeping the same banners and different branches of the same clan would sometimes use different heraldry. There were very few fixed rules, but there were patterns of use.
You can find lots of pictures of samurai re-enactors at modern festivals with non-period emblems on their banners and sahimonos, some of them rather fanciful. For instance it is not uncommon to see samurai re-enactors being accompanied by other re-enactors carrying nobori, with modern Japanese text spelling out the name of the character they are playing (see below). Imagine an English Civil War re-enactment with someone walking around accompanied by someone waving a banner with “Prince Rupert of the Rhine” written on it, or an American Civil War battle with a general carrying a big “Stonewall Jackson” flag.
The decals I have on sale are a bit of a mixture. I’m confident that most of them are historically accurate and were used on banners at some point, but some are perhaps best described as speculative. Sometimes I’ve been influenced the graphics of computer games, notably Shogun Total War II. Sometimes I’ve followed the Rule of Cool – if presented with multiple options for a symbol I’ve gone with the one that looks coolest.
I’ve focussed on doing symbols that are appropriate for the late Sengoku period, roughly 1550 to 1615, In many cases I’ve relied on information from the Family Crest and Clans sections of the Samurai Archive, an online resource and discussion forum for people interested in Japanese history. Another major source has been the books of Stephen Turnbull, possibly the most prolific English language writer on all things samurai.
So I’m confident that most of these symbols were used at some point on some banners. But in many cases I’m not at all sure exactly what banners they were used on. Information about the sashimonos worn (or not worn) by Ashigaru is particularly thin and it seems that they often wore single colour sashimonos, or ones bearing simple circle graphics, rather than anything more fancy.
If strict historical accuracy is a major consideration for you I strongly suggest that you do your own research and ensure that you are satisfied with your choice. You may still find that some of my decals will help you. I have a page here on the website with a list of useful books and links to online resources. But if you’re looking for references with details of all the different banners used by a given force at a given battle you’ll be very lucky if you can find them.
Note that my decals are not true scale. If you just copy a symbol from a full size banner and reduce it to a size suitable for a 28mm figure it will not look right. The problem is even worse if you’re wargaming with very small figures such as the lovely 6mm ones sold by Bacchus. I’m happy to provide advice.
Below are some notes on the decals I’ve got on sale so far. It is still a work in progress but it provides an idea of some of the clans that used, or could have used, the various symbols I sell. If you find any glaring mistakes please email and tell me.
A1 – Aoi (hollyhock). Used by Tokugawa clan
A3 – Aoi (standing hollyhock in a circle). Used by Honda clan
A4 – Fuji (wisteria). Used by Naito, Natsuka clans.
A5 – Kiri (paulownia). Used by Toyotomi among others.
A6 – Nadeshiko ( flower). Used by Saito clan.
A8 – Kasa (two sedge hats). Used by Yagyu clan. There are lots of contradictory sources describing different Yagyu mons. This is one of them, there’s another contrasting one at B2 below. Information on Yagyu heraldry seems to be particularly complicated,.
A9 – Breaking wave. Used by Saito Dosan
B1 –Bamboo and Sparrows. As used by Date clan.
B2 – Bamboo and Sparrows . Another mon recorded as being used by the Yagyu clan.
B5 – Two cranes (1) Symbols similar to this were used by some contingents of Ikko-Ikki.
B6 Two cranes (2) Another interpretation of B5 above. Used by some Ikko-Ikki.
B9 -Double tomoe. Used by Yukyu, Ina clans
C1 Takenoha (hawk feather) in a circle mon.
C2 Two Takenoha (hawk feathers). Used by Kikuchi clan.
C3 Intersecting Takenoha (hawk feathers). Used by Aso clan.
C4 – Intersecting Takenoha in a circle. Used by Asano, Otani, Abe.
C5 Suhama (sandbar) in a circle
C6 – Suhama (sandbar) mon. As used by Oda (Hitachi), Hineno clans.
C7 – Ichi-monji ni Mitsu-boshi (one line over three stars). Used by Mori clan.
C9 – Meyui (diagonal eyes) Used by Kamei, Sasa clans.
D2 – Wari-bishi (divided lozenge). Used by Takeda clan.
D3 – Rokumonsen (six coins) mon. Used by Sanada clan. There’s some detailed information on Sanada banners here on the Samurai Archives website. Another good choice for people who want historical accuracy and one of my own forces for Test of Honour uses these decals. The Sanada Rokumonsen Kamon features six coins, the payment needed to cross a river on the way to the world after death. Basically the use of the symbol says that the bearer is ready for death in battle.
D4 – Sangai Hishi (stacked rhombus). Used by Ogasawara.
D5 – Sangai Hishi (stacked rhombus) in a circle. Used by Atobe clan.
D6 – Disc in crescent. Used by Ito. clan. Other clans used this mon at a different angle among them the the Obu clan.
D7 – Fundo (weight). Used by Horio clan.
D8 – Ring – Used by Takemata clan.
D9 – Janomi (snake’s eye or bowstrigng spool). Used by Kato, Ishikawa.
D10 – Boshi (star). Discs like this were sometimes used instead of clan mons on Sengoku period banners. It is fairly common to find them on Asigaru sashimonos for example. See the Samurai Heraldry Gallery thread on the Samurai Archives for numerous examples of their use.
E1 – Hikiryo (striped roundel) . Used by Yamana.
E2 –Hikiryo (striped roundel) . Used by Mogami, Matsumoto.
E3 – Hikiryo (striped roundel). Used by Jinbo (with stripes vertical)
E5 – Hikiryo (striped roundel). Used by Ashina.
E7 Hikiryo (striped roundel) – speculative.
E8 – Hikiryo (striped roundel) – speculative.
E9 – Mitsu-boshi (three stars). Used by Matsuura.
E10 – Ume-boshi (six stars). Used by Tsutsui.
F1 –Shichyo (seven stars) . Used by Takayama.
F2 – Kuyo (nine stars). Used by Hosokawa, Matsukara, Chiba, Ito.
F4 – Sakurajima daikon (giant radish). Used by Kakizaki clan. One of the more unusual choices for for samurai banners and well shown in a rather nice illustration by James Field which features in two or three books by Stephen Turnbull.
F5 – Kikyo (bell flower). Used by Akechi and Yamagata clans.
F7 – Wachigai (linked circles). Used by Hatakeyama clan.
F8 – Kuhinuki (nail puller). Used by Hori, Sasa clans
F9 – Sun. Used by the Ryuzoji clan.
F10 – Used by the Hara clan. I’ve also seen this one inside a circle.
G1 – Eiraku Tsuho (coin). Used by Oda Nobunaga.
G2 – Kuruma (cart wheel). Used by Sakakibara clan.
G3 – Nine dots. Used by Hoshina Masamitsu.
G4 – Kanji text. “Daiichi Daiman Daikichi” Used by Ishida Mistunari. It can be loosely translated as “One for all and all for one. All become happy”
G5 – “Ko” Kanji. Used by Ukita clan supposedly referencing their ancestor Kojima Takanori.
G6 – ” Sage-jo” Kanji in a circle. Used by Murakami clan
G7 – “Sage-jo” Kanji over three stars. used by Inoue clan
G8 – Wanatabe-boshi (line under three stars). Used by Wanatabe and Tada clans
G9 – “Bi” Kanji. The first character of Bishamonten the God of War was used by the Uesugi clan. I have only seen historical references for this kanji being used on high level banners (Uesugi Kenshin’s personal banner and perhaps some Nobori) for the Uesugi clan , but popular culture often has it on sashimonos, notably in films and the computer game Shogun Total War.
G10 – Oghi (folding fan). Used by Satake clan
H1 – Hanabishi (flower of a diamond shape) – a version of the Takeda wari-bishi (B2) above used on personal standards by Takeda Shingen and Itagaki Nobukata, one of his Twenty-Four Generals. It was also used as a symbol by the Baba clan, possibly on the personal standards of Baba Nobuhara, another one of the Twenty Four.
H2 – Hanabishi in a circle – Used by the Goto clan.
H3- Crossed kamas (sickles) – used by the troops of Kobayakawa Hideaki, the infamous turncoat of Sekigahara.
H4 – I don’t know how to describe this symbol but it is based on illustrations of the banners used by some of the samurai of Anayama Nobutada (aka Baisetsu Nobutada or Anayama Baisetsu), one of the Twenty-Four Generals of Takeda Shingen. His Ashigaru are usually shown using the normal Takeda clan mon (D2 above), as are some samurai. Samurai and ashigaru are both recorded as using black symbols on a pale blue background.
H5 – Kanji “hachi” – Yokota Takatoshi another of the Twenty-Four Generals of Takeda Shingen. Usually shown as being used black on white.
H6 – Water Plantain – Oyamada Nobushige another of the Twenty-Four Generals of Takeda Shingen. Often shown used as a white symbol on a blue background. Also Mizuno.
H7 – Disc in crescent. A variant of D6 above with slightly different proportions. Based on artwork showing the heraldry (white symbol on a red background) of Obu Toramasa the “Wild Tiger of Kai” and another of the Twenty-Four Generals of Takeda Shingen.
H8 – Open octagon. Used by troops of Obata Masimori (aka Obata Nobusada), another of the Twenty-Four Generals of Takeda Shingen and famous as a cavalry commander.
H9 – Crescent – Used as yellow symbol on a black background by the troops of Itagaki Nobukata another of the Twenty-Four Generals of Takeda Shingen.
H10 – Kuyo (nine stars). This mon is similar to F2 above, but with slightly different proportions. It is based on artwork showing the heraldry used by Kosaka “Danjo” Masanobu, another of the Twenty-Four Generals of Takeda Shingen.