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From User Jordan Miles Hamanaka Kaplowit's comment to this question: Meaning of samurai crest / symbol

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What is the meaning of the sixth crest symbol?

  • catnip for semaphore – Tyler Durden Dec 10 '14 at 18:19
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That appears to be a maru-ni-mitsu-kashiwa (丸に三つ柏) crest, also known as a maru-ni-makino-kashiwa (丸に牧野柏). It is an encircled, three-leafed version of the kashiwa crest designs, one of the Big Ten styles of crests. These crests features an underlying design derived from the leaf of a Daimyo Oak tree.

In Winter, dead leafs of a Quercus dentata tree do not fall until new ones starts to grow in Spring. Thus, since ancient times the kashiwa has symbolised the continuity, or the propagation of the family through generations . These are appealing elements in Japanese culture, which has historically placed great importance on perpetuating familial lineages.

As is usually the case with the more plain designs, the maru-ni-mitsu-kashiwa has been used by many clans. The most closely associated is probably the ancient Makino clan, who even lent their names to the crest. But several other families used this too, including the Kasahara, the Nagae, and the Kuriyama. One notable user was Shima Sakon, a retainer of Ishida Mitsunari. He was famed for being hired with a ridiculous salary (half of Ishida's land's income), and for fighting with ferocious bravery in the fatal Battle of Sekigahara.

In addition, there exists a huge range of different kashiwa crest designs. Here are some examples:

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From left to right:

  • the mitsu-kashiwa crest, an un-circled version used by the Kasai of Mutsu.
  • the maru-ni-tosa-kashiwa (丸に土佐柏) crest, thinned version used by the Yamauchi of Tosa
  • the tsuru-gashiwa (蔓柏) crest, a veined version used by the Unomiya Shrine (鸕宮神社)
  • the daki-gashiwa (抱き柏) crest, used by the Hiromine, priests of Hiromine Shrine
  • the chigai-kashiwa (違い柏) crest, a crossed version used by the Kanou of Ichinomiya Han

(I'm only naming one as an example for each; in fact there could be dozens more different clans/shrines using the same crest.)

Moreso than samurais, however, the kashiwa designs are as a group very popular among Shinto organisations, including both the shrines themselves and priestly clans. This is due to the Daimyo Oak tree being historically regarded as a holy tree; its large and study leafs a traditional (and literally green!) food container for making offerings to the gods.

A vestige of this use might be the [kashiwa mochi (柏餅)], a wagashi consisting of rice cakes wrapped in Daimyo Oak leafs, which continues to be eaten for the Dragon Boat Festival.

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