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What’s the Meaning of Kamado Tanjiro’s Earrings? Is it from Japanese Flower Cards?

the meaning of tanjiro's earrings in japanese cultureDemon Slayer/Kimetsu no Yaiba

Hi, Junko from Japan here! Kamado Tanjiro’s earrings were originally given to the Kamado family from Tsugikuni Yoriichi, the origin of the sun-breathing style.

It was Yoriichi’s mother, Tsugikuni Akeno, who made these earrings for him. When Yoriichi was little, Akeno thought him deaf since he never talk. She made the earrings as a charm in the hope that the sun would bless his ears with warm light. After that, the earrings were given to Tanjiro’s ancestor Kamado Sumiyoshi and had been inherited as the family heirloom of the Kamado family as well as the Hinokami Kagura dance (the dance of the fire god).

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Is YORIICHI Related to TANJIRO? Why Are They Look Like Each Other?

What Does the Design of the Earrings Mean?

When you see Tanjiro’s earrings, there’s a sun-like red circle and a sunshine-like radial pattern. The composition of the earrings is very similar to one of the Japanese traditional card games called HANAFUDA, meaning “flower cards” in Japanese. Actually, Kibutsuji Muzan said “a man who’s wearing Hanafuda-like accessories on his ears” when he referred to Tanjiro and ordered demons to kill him.

Here’s the actual design of the flower card called BOZU.

The word BOZU stands for “a bald kid” and it’s named after the moon in the card that looks like a bald head. Yes, it’s the moon. Not the sun. This BOZU card describes the Japanese autumn night with the full moon and pampas grasses called SUSUKI. So I don’t think this card is directly connected to Tanjiro’s Hanafuda earrings.

Though it’s just my guess, it may imply the contrast between the Sun Breathing by Yoriichi and the Moon Breathing by Kokushibo. Tsugikuni Yoriichi and Michikatsu (Kokusibo’s original human name) had been always complete opposites.

The Rising Sun Flag in Japanese Culture

photo: a rising sun flag with a red circle and radial lines

Another motif I think of is a Japanese traditional pattern, KYOKUJITSUKI. The word KYOKUJITSU means “sunrise,” and KI is for “flag.”

The KYOKUJITSU design has been used to celebrate something auspicious for a long time. In the Sengoku era in Japan (the warring states period in the 1600s), the rising sun design was popular among Samurai lords, and they used the motif as their family crests. In modern days, some Japanese governmental facilities and associations use it as their symbol marks. The sun symbolizes Japan, and the rising sun design is very common and familiar to us.

Is Rising Sun Design Culturally Offensive?

The rising sun flag was defined as an official military flag of Japan in 1870. Since then, the rising sun patterns and symbols had been frequently used to symbolize the Japanese army and its victory in the wars such as World War I and World War II.

Since the rising sun flag symbolizes the Japanese army, South Korea regards it as the symbol of their colonial age by Japan and hates it. As a result, the original design of Tanjiro’s earrings was replaced with a different one in the Demon Slayer anime released in South Korea to avoid offending Korean people. Here’s the South Korean version, and it’s more like the Hanafuda card.

Do Japanese People Believe in the Sun God?

We have a unique religion named SHINTO, meaning “god way” in Japanese. Shinto is polytheism, and it’s said we have 8 million gods here in Japan (I agree that it’s too many). The supreme god among the 8 million gods is AMATERASU. It’s a goddess that stands for the sun. The word AMA means “heaven,” and TERASU is for “shine.”

Here’s the Ukiyo-e art of AMATERASU. You can find a goddess with sunshine on her back in the right middle of the drawing.

Utagawa Toyokuni III, Utagawa Kunisada, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In the Demon Slayer world, the sun is the only weapon that can kill demons. It’s natural that Japanese people regard the sun as the strongest stuff to defeat evil since our culture is based on the sun worshiping.

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