District Crests for Kanto

Due to the increase of opportunities to perform in other prefectures, Akita City Kanto Society, established in 1931, designed its own Kanto poles in 1953. On the front of the lantern is the symbol of a sun on a fan. This symbol is the crest of the Satake family who used to dominate the region. The crest originates from the fan with a full moon and five ribs given to Minamoto-no-Yoritomo during the battle of Oshu in 1189. Inspired by the honor of the gift, Lord Satake designed his family crest to feature a sun on a fan. On the other side of the lantern is the Akita city symbol of four arrows.
Kanto used to be performed by the representatives of each town, and so each of the lanterns has their own district crest drawn upon it. These district crests are said to be designated by the 9th generation lord, Satake Yoshimasa; however, it is also said that the story of Lord Yoshimasa is merely a folktale created by the people. Regardless, the district crests are thought to have been designed under the rule of Yoshimasa around 1789–1818.
The district crests reflect when they were created, and they are based on motifs that are deeply associating with the area. Motives of animals are especially popular as seen in the ‘rabbit pounding mochi rice’ of Kamikomemachi-Itchome, ‘horse’ in Bakuro-machi, and the ‘pegasus’ in Nishi-Bakuro-machi. There are also crests designed with birds such as the ‘crow’ from the Seiganji temple area and the ‘round-shaped crane’ from Shimo-Kaji-machi. Fish are used for Kami-Sakana-machi (sea bream) and Shimo-Sakana-machi (shrimp). The ‘triple pine tree’ of Shimokomemachi-Itchome, the ‘peony’ of Kamikomemachi-Nichome, the ‘willow and a ball’ for Yanagi-machi, and the ‘butterbur’ for Kawajhiri-Honcho are all good examples of plants that are used in district crests. Places can also be designated by symbols, which can be seen in the crests of Shijikken-Bori-machi (Futamigaura beach) and Teramachi-Nichome (Mt. Fuji). Some towns even use the initial character of its town name as a motif, such as the districts in Kawaguchi area that design their crests by combining the initial letters of each district to create a ship-like figure since Kawaguchi used to function as a wharf.
There is a folk tale about a district crest. A long time ago, children used to play with the symbol lantern of Seiganji temple by hanging it on a bamboo pole in its precincts. One day, a chief vassal of the area visited the temple to visit a grave and saw the lantern. The vassal thought that the lantern was too simple for the children to play with, and therefore he drew a picture of a crow that was sitting in front of the gate. This crow is now part of the crest of the district of Seiganji temple, and this temple has become the origin and birthplace of the Kanto custom.
On the other side of the district crests on the lanterns, many towns simply use the letter “若 (youth),” which represents the young men who hold the Kanto poles.
Cited from Akita-no-Neburi-Nagashi (written in 1967 by Shoji Hotta).

Akita City Folk Performing Arts Heritage Center