The Order of the Rising Sun (旭日章, Kyokujitsu-shō) is a Japanese order, established in 1875 by Emperor Meiji of Japan. The Order was the first national decoration awarded by the Japanese government, created on 10 April 1875 by decree of the Council of State. The badge features rays of sunlight from the rising sun. The design of the Rising Sun symbolizes energy as powerful as the rising sun in parallel with the "rising sun" concept of Japan ("Land of the Rising Sun").
The order is awarded to those who have made distinguished achievements in the following fields: international relations, promotion of Japanese culture, advancements in their field, development in welfare or preservation of the environment. Prior to the end of World War II, it was also awarded for exemplary military service. Beginning in 2003, the two lowest rankings (7th and 8th classes) for the Order of the Rising Sun were abolished, with the highest degree becoming a separate order known as the Order of the Paulownia Flowers, with the single rank of Grand Cordon.
While it is the third highest order bestowed by the Japanese government, it is however generally the highest ordinarily conferred order. The highest Japanese order, the Order of the Chrysanthemum, is reserved for heads of state or royalty, while the second highest order, the Order of the Paulownia Flowers, is mostly reserved for politicians.
The modern version of this honour has been conferred on non-Japanese recipients beginning in 1981 (although several foreigners were given the honor before World War II); and women were awarded the Order starting in 2003 (previously, women were awarded the Order of the Precious Crown). The awarding of the Order is administered by the Decoration Bureau of Office of the Prime Minister. It is awarded in the name of the Emperor and can be awarded posthumously.
It can be awarded to Japanese as well as non-Japanese nationals.
The Order was awarded in nine classes until 2003, when the Grand Cordon with Paulownia Flowers was made a separate order, and the lowest two classes were abolished. Since then, it has been awarded in six classes. Conventionally, a diploma is prepared to accompany the insignia of the order, and in some rare instances, the personal signature of the Emperor will have been added. As an illustration of the wording of the text, a translation of a representative 1929 diploma says:
By the grace of Heaven, Emperor of Japan, seated on the throne occupied by the same dynasty from time immemorial,
We confer the Second Class of the Imperial Order of Meiji upon Henry Waters Taft, a citizen of the United States of America and a director of the Japan Society of New York, and invest him with the insignia of the same class of the Order of the Double Rays of the Rising Sun, in expression of the good will which we entertain towards him.
In witness whereof, we have hereunto set our hand and caused the Grand Seal of State to be affixed at the Imperial Palace, Tokyo, this thirteenth day of the fifth month of the fourth year of Shōwa, corresponding to the 2,589th year from the accession to the throne of Emperor Jimmu."
The star for the Grand Cordon and Second Class is a silver star of eight points, each point having three alternating silver rays; the central emblem is identical to the badge. It is worn on the left chest for the Grand Cordon, on the right chest for the 2nd Class.
The badge for the Grand Cordon to Sixth Classes is an eight-pointed badge bearing a central red enamelled sun disc, with gilt points (1st-4th Classes), with four gilt and four silver points (5th Class), or with silver points (6th Class); each point comprises three white enamelled rays. It is suspended from three enamelled paulownia leaves (not chrysanthemum leaves as the Decoration Bureau page claims) on a ribbon in white with red border stripes, worn as a sash from the right shoulder for the Grand Cordon, as a necklet for the 2nd and 3rd Classes and on the left chest for the 4th to 6th Classes (with a rosette for the 4th Class).
The badge for the Seventh and Eighth Classes consisted of a silver medal in the shape of three paulownia leaves, enamelled for the 7th Class and plain for the 8th Class. Both were suspended on a ribbon, again in white with red border stripes, and worn on the left chest. Both classes were abolished in 2003 and replaced by the Order of the Paulownia Flowers, a single-class order that now ranks above the Order of the Rising Sun.Henry Hajimu Fujii (1886–1976), 1971
Bolesław Orliński, 1926
Fudeko Reekie, 2013
In 2003, the 7th and 8th levels – named for leaves of the Paulownia tree, long used as a mon (emblem) for the highest levels of Japanese society – were moved to a new and distinct order, the single-class Order of the Paulownia Flowers.Tetsuzō Iwamoto 1942
Leonard Kubiak 1926
In 2003, the 7th and 8th levels – named for leaves of the Paulownia tree, long used as a mon (emblem) for the highest levels of Japanese society – were moved to a new and distinct order, the single-class Order of the Paulownia Flowers.