Terminology: Mum’s not the word.



Many of you may be guilty of using the word “mum” when talking about the Arisaka rifles of Japan.  There is debate on the origin of this term and I’m here to hopefully clarify some of it.  But first let’s review what a “mum” is.



Japan’s imperial military considered every rifle property of the Emperor and so each was stamped with his family’s sixteen petal chrysanthemum sigil.  At the end of World War II the Japanese surrendered their arms to the United States of America but the military ordered that all of the imperial sigils should be removed to avoid dishonor.  Surrendered arms will usually have the crest ground off.  Others were struck with a zero-shaped stamp or crossed out but this may also be a sign of a rifle committed to training purposes before the end of the war.  Rifles that still bear the full sigil were most likely captured in the field by defeated Japanese troops.  It’s often told that these must be US GI bring backs but C&Rsenal would like to remind readers that China sometimes won one and the British were causing all hell in Burma.  The point is, fully crested Arisaka rifles are worth more and certainly suggest they saw action of some sort.

I’ve heard plenty of collectors declare loudly that the “mum” is short for “chrysanthemum” and honestly I can’t prove 100% that this is not the case.  It does seem odd, however, to shorten the word chrysanthemum instead of saying something more like “that damn flower.”  It’s much more likely that “mum” derived from the actual Japanese term for such sigils: “Mon.”

The mon has a long history in Japan.  It started as a means of clan identification and evolved into family or personal identifiers as well.  In America we still see them regularly.  The three diamonds of Mitsubishi and the tuning forks of Yamaha are excellent examples of mon.

So that’s about it.  Since the terms mum and mon are so similar, I’ve swapped over with hardly anyone noticing.  Give it a shot next time you and your friends are casually discussing the differences between surrendered and captured Japanese imperial arms at the bar.

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