Medals for Merit (勲等)

Medals for merit were conferred on persons according to the persons' distinguished services. When the Ritsuryo system was established in Japan, the medals for merit was called 'the order of merit,' which ranged over 12 orders from the First Order of Merit to the Twelfth Order of Merit. As it was called 'court rank and order of merit,' the order was bestowed according to the recipient's court rank. The medals for merit in Japan will be described in detail below.

Summary
Correspondence between the order of merit and the court rank will be shown below. The First Order of Merit (corresponding to Senior Third Rank,) the Second Order of Merit (Junior Third Rank,) the Third Order of Merit (Senior Fourth Rank,) the Fourth Order of Merit (Junior Fourth Rank,) the Fifth Order of Merit (Senior Fifth Rank,) and the Sixth Order of Merit (Junior Fifth Rank) were personally conferred by the emperor.
The Seventh Order of Merit (Senior Sixth Rank,) the Eighth Order of Merit (Junior Sixth Rank,) the Ninth Order of Merit (Senior Seventh Rank,) the Tenth Order of Merit (Junior Seventh Rank,) the Eleventh Order of Merit (Senior Eighth Rank,) and the Twelfth Order of Merit (Junior Eighth Rank.)

From the Heian period to the Edo period, the official court rank, i.e., the court rank, and the government post were used in the class system of the court nobles and warriors, but the medals for merit gradually fell out of use later in the history.

During the Meiji period, in 1875, awarding of the medals for merit and the medals (next year, the medals were changed to the decoration) was instituted by virtue of the Grand Council Proclamation and the medals for merit were established to indicate the grade of the decoration from the First Order of Merit to the Eighth Order of Merit; and in 1876, the Supreme Order was established as the highest medal for merit by virtue of the imperial edict.
When a decoration is to be bestowed on a person, the medal for merit corresponding to the decoration was bestowed on the recipient at first (bestowal of an order,) and then the decoration corresponding to the medal of merit was bestowed (awarding of a decoration.)
When the Order of the Golden Kite was instituted in 1890, the grades other than the medals for merit was founded to be especially bestowed on soldiers.

After WWII, since the Order of the Golden Kite was abolished and ordinary bestowal of an order, i.e., bestowal on incumbent officials, was suspended for a while, the medals for merit were not bestowed on the recipients in their lifetime until the 30s of the Showa era (1955-1964). During the Hayato IKEDA's administration, the institution of decoration was restored first time after WWII, and the institution has been observed to date. There is no institution of the medals for merit in Japan at present, but still, the false statement of the medals for merit, including the rank, the academic degree, and any other titles stipulated in the law as well as those corresponding to them in the foreign countries, is treated as illegal according to the Minor Offense Act Article 1 Section 15; the person who violates the law receives punishment like detention or light fine.

On November 13, 2003, according to the demands for removal of the disparity between public and private for decoration in Japan and for various viewpoints in selecting the recipients, the Decrees of Cabinet were amended so that the medals for merit except for the supreme order, i.e., the grades represented by number, were abolished (but provisions of the amended Decrees of Cabinet still describe the word 'medal for merit,' which means that they merely prohibit the people from declaring the medals for merit and that the concept of the medals for merit still remains.)
Some members of the ruling party are opposing the abolishment of the medals for merit, but with the issues including removal of the disparity between public and private and the establishment of honor law, it is still undecided as to what kind of institution of honor will replace the medals for merit.

After the amendment, bestowal of medals for merit, i.e., bestowal of an order, has not been done in Japan; still, the Japanese government is using the word 'bestowal of an order' as well as 'awarding of a decoration' to express awarding of a decoration (for example, the section of the official gazette has not been changed its title from Bestowal of an Order to Award of Decoration.)
That means that the 'medals for merit' has not been completely abolished and that the 'decoration' is not left alone in the new institution, in contrast to the old institution, in which the 'medals for merit' were clearly distinguished from the 'decoration,'
Under the amended system, the government cannot bestow the medals for merit like 'the XXX Order of Merit,' but the Decrees of Cabinet still stipulates 'Six Classes' as the concept of the medals for merit without individual naming; therefore, the decorations conferred under the new system belong to any of the medals for merit, which is divided into six without individual naming, so that the bestowal (or receipt) of the decoration virtually means, if not explicitly, the bestowal (or receipt) of the medals for merit. Since the institution of bestowal of the medals for merit has been abolished and bestowal of the decoration is called 'the bestowal of the medals for merit' instead, 'the bestowal of the medals for merit' has increasingly come to mean the bestowal of the decoration.

According to the traditional protocol, the court rank and the medal for merit were formally put as the title without the decorations like 'Senior Third Rank, the First Order of Merit, Taro NIPPON,' which was seen as an example in the message of condolence for a member of the Diet read in the Diet.
Under the new institution, in the message of condolence read in the Diet, the deceased, who was bestowed the medal for merit in the old institution, is addressed without the decoration as in the traditional way; and the deceased, who has been bestowed the decoration in the new institution, is addressed like 'Senior Third Rank, the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun, Taro NIPPON has long been contributed to the constitutional government....'
From the above-mentioned fact, it is inferred that, unlike the decoration bestowed in the old institution, the decoration bestowed in the new institution contains a meaning of the medals for merit, if slightly.

Order of merit

the First Order of Merit
the Second Order of Merit
the Third Order of Merit
the Fourth Order of Merit
the Fifth Order of Merit
the Sixth Order of Merit
the Seventh Order of Merit
the Eighth Order of Merit
the Ninth Order of Merit
the Tenth Order of Merit
the Eleventh Order of Merit
the Twelfth Order of Merit

Medals for merit

Order of the Chrysanthemum
the First Order of Merit
the Second Order of Merit
the Third Order of Merit
the Fourth Order of Merit
the Fifth Order of Merit
the Sixth Order of Merit
the Seventh Order of Merit
the Eighth Order of Merit

Law concerning honor (especially medals for merit)
Protocol of bestowing gold, silver, and wooden cup and prize money (Grand Council Proclamation No, 17 in 1883)
On the Order of the Precious Crown and the Collar of the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum (Imperial Edict No, 1 in 1888)
Imperial Family Status Ordinance (Imperial family's Act No. 2 in 1910)
On State funeral of the deceased Marshal Army General, the Supreme Order third, Imperial Prince Akihito (Imperial Edict No. 16 in 1903)
Detailed regulations on enforcement of deprivation of decoration (Cabinet Order No. 2 in 1908)
On State funeral of the deceased the Supreme Order Prince Li (Imperial Edict No. 9 in 1919)
Act that sets the ceremonies of the Imperial Court, crests of Imperial family, banners, seating arrangement in Imperial ceremonies, etc (Imperial family's Act No. 7 in 1926)
The bylaw of conferring rewards for services on civil officer dead victims of the Greater East Asian War (decision on March 9, 1945)
On the petition for returning order, decoration, and the like (Imperial Edict No. 699 in 1945)
On treatment of the bestowal of the honors and an order on government officials, and the bestowal of an order on the President, the Vice-President, and members of the House of Peers, the Speaker, the Deputy-Speaker, and members of the House of Representatives, and the mayors and deputy mayors of cities, towns, and villages as enforcement of the government official class bestowal act (Cabinet approval on May 2, 1946)
Minor Offensive Act (No. 39 in 1948)
On treatment of the bestowal of an order on survivors (Cabinet approval on November 18, 1953)
On start with the bestowal of an order on survivors (Cabinet approval on July 12, 1963)
Consuetudinary of the Conferment Ceremony and the Award Ceremony of decoration, badge, medal, and the like (Cabinet approval on July 12, 1963)
On the standard of the bestowal of an order based on Section 2 of the Start with the bestowal of an order on survivors (Cabinet approval on July 12, 1963) (Cabinet approval on April 21, 1964)
Rules for the proper wear of decorations and the like (Notification of Prime Minister's Office No. 16 in 1964)
Cabinet Office Ordinance on regulation of standard and shape of all decorations and the Collar of the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum (Cabinet Office Ordinance No. 54 in 2003)