About paulownia "Kiri"

Characteristic of paulownia

Paulownia is a hardwood tree belonging to the family Gramineae. It is a fast-growing tree that can produce wood in a short period of time. It is planted not only in Japan but also overseas as a horticultural tree because of its early growth and beautiful flowers. Also it is the lightest (lowest density) wood in Japan, and has excellent heat insulation and humidity control properties, as well as low shrinkage and swelling rates and low distortion as wood. Among Japanese wooden furniture, paulownia chests are particularly outstanding.

History of paulownia and human society in Japan

In Japan, there are several emblems based on the white paulownia tree. They are collectively called paulownia crests or paulownia flower crests. Among them, the 57 paulownia, which is often used as a symbol of official institutions, and the 53 paulownia, which is generally used as a family crest, are representative and are so common that they are listed as one of the 10 major crests.

In ancient China, the phoenix, symbolizing the Holy King, was considered sacred because it was believed to "dwell in the paulownia tree and eat the fruit of the bamboo. In Japan, it is also an emblem of the imperial family along with the Kiku(Chrysanthemum ), with the Kiku as the official crest and the Kiri(Paulonwina) as the secondary crest. From the time of Emperor Saga(786-842), it was used for embroidery and dyeing of the emperor's clothing, and was regarded as the second noblest crest after the Kiku crest. Since the Middle Ages, it has also been a family crest desired by the warrior class, and emperors such as Ashikaga Takauji(1,305-1,358)and Toyotomi Hideyoshi(1,536-1,598) received this crest from the emperor. As a result, the 57 paulownia crest came to be recognized as the emblem of the person in charge of government.

In modern times, the 57 paulownia has been used as "the coat of arms of the Japanese government" on the design of the Imperial uniform and orders (paulownia crest, Order of the Rising Sun, and Order of the Sacred Treasure), on documents such as visas and passports, and on gold coin ornaments as the national emblem, and on the Prime Minister's plate on his platform and on the equipment in his official residence as "the emblem of the Prime Minister". It is also used as the "emblem of the Prime Minister" on the equipment of the Prime Minister's Office and on a plate attached to the Prime Minister's platform. The coat of arms of the Japanese National Railways, which existed in the past, was also a combination of the paulownia crest and the driving wheel of a steam locomotive.

The Imperial Police Headquarters and the Ministry of Justice also use 53 Kiri as their emblems.

In Hanafuda(Japanese traditional card game), "Phoenix on paulownia" and three kasus are drawn as the pattern for December.