Dai Nippon Butoku-kai
武徳会
The Great Japan Butoku-kai was established on April 17, 1895 and abolished on October 31, 1946. The stated purpose of this
organization was to promote the martial arts and educate the populace in the fighting arts. Of course, the larger goal was to strengthen
the bodies and spirits of the Japanese through the practice of the various martial skills.
Bu means 'martial' and toku means 'moral.'
Kai means 'association' or 'group.' There is no accepted English translation of the group as far as I know.

At the beginning this group received the express support of the Emperor of Japan and created various competitions for the Emperor's
pleasure. These competitions, also held by various groups, are called
Tenranjiai. For some reason, the explicit support of the Emperor
was withdrawn, so the organization committee got
Imperial Army Field Marshall Komatsu Akihito to serve as the general president. It
also established ties with local police departments and
the Home Ministry and began to spread its activities across the country.

In 1909 in order to be recognized as a non-profit foundation, clearly stated aims of the group were released:

  • To maintain the Butoku-den on the ground of Heian Shrine
  • To hold the Butoku Festival and the Butoku Large Competition
  • To build educational facilities to promote and encourage the martial arts
  • To recognize and honor those who excel in the various martial arts
  • To collect and preserve old weapons
  • To preserve the traditional martial arts
  • To organize, publish, and/or display the weapons, arts and traditions

Of course, the
Butoku-kai collected dues from its members so in order to get more dues, they established branch offices in most
areas of Japan. The head of each prefecture branch was the governor of the respective prefectures, the heads of the district branches
were the district leaders, and the city branches were headed by the mayors. So the group became intimately involved with the
Japanese government.

In 1909 the Butoku-kai had 1,510,000 members and 1,810,000 yen in its coffers. By the end of 1942 branches had been successfully
established all over Japan and the membership had increased to 2,240,000. The money? It had 5,590,000 yen to use. Since the
government had also extended its influence deeply within this group, in 1942 it became a group functioning directly under government
control in both name and action.

And on March 21, 1942 the president of the Butoku-kai was none other than
Hideki Tojo, and office of the vice-president was to be
rotated between the ministers of the five main government agencies: the Army Ministry, the Navy Ministry, the Home Ministry, the
Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Welfare.

The group was directly concerned with the war effort by actively educating the public and by using its funds to finance a variety of
military-related activities.

The group issued a large variety of member badges and medals, merit badges and medals, competition prize badges and medals,
and other commemorative items.

There is a martial arts group currently active with the name
Butoku-kai. This appears to be the same organization. The later
incarnation is completely separate from the government and sponsors various martial arts activities. It was established in 1957.
However, it is sufficiently prestigious that a member of the Imperial family (the uncle of the current Emperor) serves as the general
president, and Miyazawa Keiichi, a former prime minister of Japan, served in the same position.
OBVERSE: 'Championship.'
REVERSE: 'Greater Japan
Butoku-kai, Hyogo Branch.'
Regular member badge.
4th Class Merit Badge.
Japanese Mint hallmark on inside case lid.
Paperweight
The Butoku-den in Yamaguchi Prefecture (postcard)
Interior of the Butoku-den in Yamaguchi Prefecture
(postcard)
Merit Badge. The gilt figure is the president at
the time of manufacture. See below and
page 2 for more examples.
Imperial Butoku-kai branch member badge.
Inscribed on the badge and case 'Great Japan
Butoku-kai Commemorative Badge, Nagano Branch.'
Rare Imperial Butoku-kai 2nd Class Merit badge. This is a locket style badge. The
interior of the badge reads 'Merit Award' on the right and 'Great Japan
Butoku-kai
General Chairman 1st Rank, Holder of the 4th Class Golden Kite, Prince Kuni
Kuniyoshi.' I think his likeness is on the obverse.
3rd Class Merit badge. This is a locket style badge. The interior of the
badge reads 'Merit Award' on the right and 'Great Japan
Butoku-kai
General Chairman 1st Rank, Prince Nashimoto Morimasa.'
His likeness is on the obverse.
Special Ribbon badge.
Another example of above badge.

Inscribed 'Building Completion Commemorative Tournament, Imperial
Butoku Association, Gunma Branch, Imperial Year 2594 [1934].'
A sterling silver medal from the Imperial Butoku-kai. Inscribed 'Great Japan
Butoku-kai, Chiba Branch.'

Original case of issue.

The badge measures about 2.7 cm by 1.7 cm.
Another variety of above. The inscription is the same, but this one does not
have the group emblem on the reverse. The design is the same, but there
are some small differences in spacing, etc.
The badge maker label is different and the case size is, too.

'Award. Great Japan Butoku [Noble Warrior] Association. Chiba Branch.'
Hallmarked sterling silver.
4th Class Merit Badge.
No hallmark on inside case lid.
From January 1898 pamphlet from the Butoku-kai:

'Full Member Badge. The badge shall be in gold. The reverse shall be
inscribed 「大日本武徳会」.'
From January 1898 pamphlet from the Butoku-kai:

'Honorary Member and Special Member Badge. The badge shall be in
gold. The Honorary Member Badge shall have a purple ribbon. The
Special member Badge shall have a red ribbon. The reverse shall be
inscribed 「大日本武徳会」.'
From January 1898 pamphlet from the Butoku-kai:

'Member Card. The badge shall be in gold. The lettering shall be in
black. The position of the member shall be inscribed. The reverse shall
be inscribed with the member's name.'
'Full member. Akama Hiroichi. Taisho 8
[1919] August.'
From January 1898 pamphlet from the Butoku-kai:

'Special Merit Ribbon Badge. The badge shall be in gold. The ribbon
shall be white in the center with purple on either side. there shall be two
sewn cherry blossoms on the ribbon. The reverse shall be inscribed
「大日本武徳会」. The Special Merit Ribbon Badge shall have a red
ribbon.'
From January 1898 pamphlet from the Butoku-kai:

'Special Merit Ribbon Badge. The badge shall be in gold. The ribbon
shall be white in the center with purple on either side. there shall be two
sewn cherry blossoms on the ribbon. The reverse shall be inscribed
「大日本武徳会」.'