The Meaning Behind the Kodokan Symbol

We’ve all seen this symbol in the Kodokan literature, videos, and promotions, and the first thing that comes to mind when we see it, is the national flag of Japan. But we also see a flower-like shape surrounding the flag. Considering the cherry blossom grows wild on the island of Japan, it makes it all very easy to decipher how this emblem came together. There is only one problem. This is neither a cherry blossom nor the flag of Japan!

To understand the origin of the emblem, we first must brush up on the Japanese lore behind The Yata No Kagami.

The Yata No Kagami

The Yata No Kagami is a representation of wisdom, and it is loosely translated as “The Eight Mirror”. This mirror is over 1000 yrs old, and it is currently kept securely and heavily guarded at  the Ise Grand Shrine in Mie

In ancient Japanese folklore, mirrors were considered objects of high importance and even reverence. An object so unique that when you came up in front of it, you could not lie to it nor can it lie to you. Because mirrors reflect what it is shown to them, it will always show you who you are and how you are being seen by others. The Japanese believed this was not only true to the physical appearance, but to one’s morals as well.

According to Shinto, Japan’s native belief system, the mirror was forged by Ishikoridome No Mikoto, the god of mirrors, for the purpose of luring the Sun God out of her cave every morning and bring light unto the world. Ishikridome had a grandson (Ninigi No Mikoto) who was entrusted with the task of pacifying Japan. Ninigi carried both, the Yata No Kagami mirror and his famous sword Kusanagi. These two items made him invincible simply because the sword was mighty, but the mirror made all of his opponents show their true selves. The mirror was documented to have passed from generation to generation.

The Emblem

The emblem concept was created in the early stages of the Kodokan by Dr. Jigoro Kano Shihan himself. A man of unmeasurable brilliance, but not much of a painter. It wasn’t until 1940 when an artist took Dr. Kano’s concept and came up with the emblem we know today. The name of the artist is not very well known. (From the Kodokan Judo Institute)

The concept of the logo was to bring together the Yata No Kagami mirror and the iron core that has been at the center of the Japanese flag since 1870. As you can see now, the outline of the emblem is not a cherry blossom, but the Yata No Kagami and the center is the fiery iron core of Japan.

But Why?

Dr. Jogoro Kano always envisioned Judo to be a martial art that brought out the best of a human being. His ultimate goal of judo was the harmonious development and eventual perfection of human character. The mirror edge of the emblem represents softness, transparency, and honesty. While the iron core represents moral strength, physical power, and mental fortitude. Together, a person can never be too rough as to destroy everything in his/her path, while maintaining stability and unwavering character.

These two concepts married into what the word Ju-Do means. Ju (Gentle) and Do (way). Always finding the gentle way, but always finding the way.

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