Using the techniques and sense of beauty seen in kamon, formed solely from perfect circles and straight lines, to create new designs

Over 1,000 Years of History and Over 50,000 Different Designs

 There are commonly said to be 20,000 confirmed Japanese kamon (family crests), while some researchers claim that there are "at least 50,000" different kamon. Kamon began to be used in Japan by the ruling class of court nobles more than a thousand years ago during the Heian period (782-1184), and numerous kamon were developed to represent different families. Upon the arrival of eras ruled by samurai, kamon began to be used as symbols on banners and flags to distinguish between enemies and allies in battle. They later began to appear on kimono worn at rituals and ceremonies. With the arrival of the Edo period (1603-1867), commoners also began to use kamon, applying the designs to their belongings such as kimono.

Tools and Techniques Used to Draw Kamon

 The craftspeople who inscribe kamon on kimono by hand are called monsho-uwaeshi or "kamon artisans." The tools they use for drawing kamon are ink, a brush, a ruler, a glass stick, and a compass called a bunmawashi. Monsho-uwaeshi use these tools to inscribe kamon crafted solely using perfect circles and straight lines thinner than a hair. Some kamon designs consist of hundreds or even thousands of perfect circles, which require artisans to work extremely carefully and intricately. Monsho-uwaeshi use their instinct and experience to instantly figure out where to place the centre of each perfect circle to draw kamon.
 As kamon have been passed down from generation to generation over a thousand years, the design of each is streamlined yet sophisticated. Katsushika Hokusai, a renowned ukiyo-e artist, left a comment in his book that reads: "after all, everything is made of squares and circles".

Art Created Using 2,582 Perfect Circles

 Monsho-uwaeshi Shoryu Hatoba and his son Yohji Hatoba have created "mon-mandala," their own creative art form, by combining digital tools and the techniques and wisdom of craftspeople that they have studied over the years.
 One such example is a piece depicting a kirin, a legendary animal from Chinese mythology. Numerous curves drawn outward from the two kirin in the centre with their backs facing each other appear to be vitality or an aura brimming from the animals. This piece, which gives a dignified, divinelike impression is, in fact, drawn with 2,582 perfect circles. Shoryu Hatoba describes the mon-mandala as follows.
"This work is made by applying the techniques of monsho-uwaeshi who created kamon solely from straight lines and perfect circles. The thin lines, drawn as if hinting at something, usually appear only in the artisans' minds and are not visible in their drawings. In this mon-mandala, we visualized the world perceived by the artisans in addition to the now-usual drawing using digital tools."

New Expressions Derived from Applications of Kamon

 By combining the technical applications of monsho-uwaeshi with digital tools, Shoryu Hatoba and his son Yohji Hatoba create artworks, including mon-mandala, and versatile design works, and are involved in the development of corporate logos and new products. Shoryu expands the fields of his work with a desire "to let many people know the value and allure of kamon that have a long history". In recent years, they have received a growing number of orders from people abroad who are interested in Japanese culture.  "We used to receive orders with the English term "family crest", but there has been an increase in orders from overseas that use the Japanese word "kamon", to express their desire to make their own kamon," says Yohji.
 With the works of Shoryu Hatoba and Yohji Hatoba, who have collaborated with internationally renowned fashion designers and appeared in a special episode of a national television program, more and more people in Japan are reconsidering the allure of kamon. Monsho-uwaeshi who have inherited the design theory of kamon that has a history of more than a thousand years will continue to design works based on kamon, which will be even more widely available so that more people can see them.