- Other Names: 三つ巴 (mitsudomoe)
- Japanese/Okinawan: 左巴紋 (hidari gomon / fijai gumun)
The hidari gomon was the house crest (kamon) of the Shô house, the royal family of the Ryûkyû Kingdom. It consists of three comma-like shapes organized together to form a circle, with the circular heads of the three pointing in a clockwise fashion; this shape, common throughout Japan and Korea as well, is also known in Japanese as mitsu domoe. When rendered in color, the three are typically red, yellow, and blue.
The design, long associated with the deity Hachiman, was adopted by King Shô Toku of Ryûkyû as his family crest in 1466. This is traditionally said to have taken place in conjunction with his military conquest of Kikaigashima (Kikai Island), having direct connection to Shô Toku's adoption of Hachiman - a maritime and warrior deity - as a guardian deity of the kingdom. Azato Hachiman Shrine was erected in Naha (the main port city in Ryûkyû) at the same time. Many scholars also suggest that Shô Toku and the kingdom had strong ties to wakô (pirate/brigand) origins, and draw a connection between wakô patronage of Hachiman & use of the mitsudomoe symbol and the formal adoption of these by Shô Toku.
The design came to used fairly widely in a number of prominent royal court contexts, including being displayed prominently on royal ships. Though scattered records from the 18th and 19th centuries suggest various forms of the hidari gomon having been flown on Ryukyuan vessels or otherwise displayed as a symbol of the kingdom, the kingdom never adopted a formal national flag as a modern nation-state prior to its dissolution and abolition. The hidari gomon, sometimes referred to as a triskelion in English, was later adopted by USCAR, the US Occupation government which oversaw the Ryukyu Islands from 1945 to 1972, for its flag for the territory.
The symbol continues to be used widely today to represent the kingdom, the royal court, or various aspects of traditional Okinawan culture. It appears frequently on festival jackets and t-shirt, hatagashira banners, and so forth, and is particularly standard on the tiigaa cloth wrapping around the body of sanshin.
- Plaques on-site at Azato Hachiman Shrine, Naha, Okinawa.
- Gregory Smits, Maritime Ryukyu, University of Hawaii Press (2019), 118.
- Kina Daisaku, part-time curator at the Naha City Museum of History, argues explicitly against the notion of the kingdom, or Ryûkyû han (1872-1879), having a formal flag as was long asserted on Wikipedia and elsewhere in popular publications and popular consciousness. Kina Daisaku 喜納大作, Maboroshi no Ryûkyû ôkokki 「幻の琉球王国旗」、Ryukyu Shimpo 琉球新報, 12 June 2012.