Kinshi kunsho (The Order of the Golden Kite) (金鵄勲章)

Kinshi kunsho (the Order of the Golden Kite) is one of Japan's decorative orders. Eligibility was limited to military personnels or civilian employees in the Imperial Japanese Army or the Imperial Japanese Navy. It is also known simply as Kinshi sho (Golden Kite Medal).

It is called 'Golden Kite' because of a legend that, during Emperor Jimmu's eastern expedition, a bright, shimmering golden-colored kite landed on the nock of Emperor Jimmu's bow, which threw the army of Nagasunehiko into confusion.

Summary

The Order of the Golden Kite was established on February 11 (National Foundation Day, known as "Kigensetsu" in Japanese), 1890. The Order of the Golden Kite is split into seven grades of merit, from 'merit, first grade' down to 'merit, seventh grade'; recipients receive a medal in addition to being ranked into one of the grades. In terms of other orders, including courtly rank and the Orders of the Rising Sun and Orders of the Sacred Treasure, when it came to civil servants (at the time, they were termed "government officials") in government service, once they fulfilled the prescribed condition--for example, working continuously for a certain number of years--almost everyone would receive such medals, and non-government soldiers (in Japan's army) or civilians could also receive them; the Order of the Golden Kite, however, was limited only to military personnel, and furthermore was only granted to those who had sufficiently distinguished themselves in battle, meaning that simply being a general or an army officer of imperial blood, without distinguished service in battle, would not bring one this medal.

Those who won this medal were also provided with a yearly pension of 900 yen if first-grade or 65 yen for seventh-grade. Considering that in the early Showa period the monthly salary for private second class in the army was just 8.80 yen, this was quite a large amount. This yearly pension continued for the rest of each recipient's life, and as the scope of Japan's wars continued to widen, the number of recipients rapidly surged, developing into a significant burden on the national treasury. Consequently, in 1940 this pension was changed to a single lump sum, to be paid in government bonds. Yet due to Japan's defeat, such government bonds ended up being worth less than one yen each. Moreover, monetary awards to surviving combatants were discontinued after 1940 in order to enhance Japan's war effort, and thereafter such payments were only made on behalf of slain soldiers who had served with distinction. Resultingly, those among the front-line troops who rendered extraordinary service were awarded army swords, letters of commendation, and other mementos 'as a firm promise of receiving the Order of the Golden Kite,' and among the army it was treated as an emblem of great military exploits.

Due to Japan's defeat in the Pacific War (World War II), this Order was discontinued by order of the General Headquarters of the Allied Powers (GHQ), as stipulated in the 'Public Directive Number Four of 1947,' a public directive dated May 3, 1947.

Society in prewar Japan had placed considerable weight and importance on rank and class, and as such, it was common for a person's decorations and medals to display or state in order. The Order of the Golden Kite was no exception, and when displayed or stated the person's employment was shown first, followed by his (military) rank second, court rank third, order of merit fourth, grade of the Order of the Golden Kite fifth, peerage (noble title) sixth, academic degree seventh, and finally the person's name.

For example, "The Prime Minister, Admiral of the Navy, Junior First Court Rank, Supreme Order of Merit, First Grade of the Order of the Golden Kite, his Lordship the Count, Gombei YAMAMOTO."

The grades of the Order of the Golden Kite

Incidental to the Order of the Golden Kite is the grade of the award, which shows the degree of meritorious service rendered by the soldier receiving it. This Order is one of the honors personally presented by the Emperor and as such is on the same level as those honors known as "court rank and honors." Formally speaking, each grade should be stated before the order itself, as for example in "First Grade of the Order of the Golden Kite." For Second Grade on down, additional medals do not exist.

The First Grade is awarded, after special investigation, to commanding officers (mainly commanders or lieutenant generals) serving as generals of forces directly under the Emperor's supervision.

The Grand Cordon of the Order is draped from the left shoulder down to the right side, and additional medals are worn along the ribcage on the left side.

The Second Grade is the highest merit grade awarded to generals and field officers who have served with distinction.

The actual medal is worn along the ribcage on the left side (in the same position as additional medals for First Grade Order of the Golden Kite recipients).

The Third Grade confers a first investiture (into the nobility) on generals. This is the highest merit grade awarded to field officers and officers below the rank of major who have served with distinction.

The Neck Ribbon is worn around the neck.

The Fourth Grade is the merit grade that confers a first investiture on field officers. It is the highest grade awarded to officers below the rank of major, warrant officers, and non-commissioned officers who have rendered distinguished service.

The Rosette is worn on the left breast.

The Fifth Grade is the merit grade that confers a first investiture on officers below the rank of major. This grade is given to those among the warrant and non-commissioned officers who have accumulated a distinguished record of meritorious service. It is also the highest grade awarded to common soldiers.

The Rosette is worn on the left breast.

The Sixth Grade is the merit grade that confers a first investiture on warrant and non-commissioned officers. It is also the merit grade given to rank-and-file soldiers who have rendered distinguished service.

The Rosette is worn on the left breast.

The Seventh Grade is the merit grade that confers a first investiture on common soldiers.

The Rosette is worn on the left breast.

The total (approximate) number of recipients of the Order of the Golden Kite:

In the Sino-Japanese War: about 2,000

In the Russo-Japanese War: about 109,600

In the First World War: about 3,000

In the Manchurian Incident: about 9,000

In the Second Sino-Japanese War (also known as the Sino-Japanese Incident): about 190,000

In the Second World War (also known as the Pacific War): about 620,000

Efforts in later years to reinstate the Order of the Golden Kite

In 1963 the system of conferring decorations on survivors of combat was reinstated and the Order of the Chrysanthemum and the Orders of the Rising Sun, the Orders of the Sacred Treasure, and the Orders of the Precious Crown were all revived, but the Order of the Golden Kite remained banned, and any wearing of its medals in public places prohibited. Consequently, recipients of the Order of the Golden Kite banded together, forming the 'League of the Golden Kite' to seek reinstatement of the Orders' honors and annual pensions. In 1985 this League organized a gathering of National Diet members and held a 'panel discussion on the reinstatement of the honors of the Golden Kite Medal,' and submitted the same request for reinstatement to then-Prime Minister Yasuhiro NAKASONE. Though the fervor of such lobbying activities has dimmed due to the advancing age of the remaining medal recipients, in 1986 the government recognized their right to wear their medals.