The Ideal Virtues of a
Japanese Soldier
Inscribed 'Imperial Rescript, 1: Loyalty, 33rd Infantry.'
One interesting kanji design is actually a series of five designs: These are the ideal virtues of a Japanese
soldier. I think that these were first promulgated in the early Meiji period, when the Japanese army first came
into existence. I am not sure, but these virtues could be from the original Imperial Guard--the troops assigned to
guard the Emperor and his various entourages.

Emperor Meiji's
Imperial Rescript to Soldiers contained the five principles of military ethics:

Loyalty: The soldier should consider loyalty his essential duty. 'Remember that the protection of the state and
the maintenance of its power depend upon the strength of its arms. ... Bear in mind that duty is weightier than a
mountain, while death is lighter than a feather.'

Courtesy: The soldier should be strict in observing propriety. 'Inferiors should regard the orders of their
superiors as issuing directly from Us [i.e. the Emperor].'

Courage: The soldier should esteem valor. 'Never despise an inferior enemy, or fear a superior, but do one's
duty as a soldier or sailor--that is true valor.'

Truthfulness: The soldier should highly value faithfulness and righteousness. 'Faithfulness implies the keeping
of one's word, and righteousness the fulfillment of one's duty.'

Frugality: The soldier should make simplicity his aim. 'If you do not make simplicity your aim, you will become
effeminate or frivolous and acquire fondness for luxurious and extravagant ways.'

(from Forty's
Japanese Army Handbook 1939-1945, page 27)

Early in the Imperial Guard's history only the best and brightest were assigned to the Guard, so perhaps they
even upheld these virtues. Whether these virtues were upheld throughout the Second World War is highly
debatable, but anyway they were often put on military cups. Although there may have been single cups extolling
one virtue, I think they were always issued as a set.

Most often seen on Army cups, rarely on Navy cups. Note that various sources translate the terms with different

Click here to see cups with other kanji designs.
Two full sets
Most often you won't find a complete set, so here are the individual ones with translations.
On the reverse are the five Soldier Virtues in red.
The five Soldier Virtues are written in the boxes
around the rim.
Each cup has the same design: cherry blossoms and gold rim. The blue inscriptions in
the center, though, each list a different virtue.
Each one is also inscribed 'Discharge Commemorative.'
Boxed Soldier Virtue 5-cup set. There is a different virtues in each bowl.
Also inscribed: '9th Heavy Transport, Discharge Commemorative.'
Soldier Virtue set from the Kutani kiln.
These have just the first kanji from each two-kanji