Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, is a Japanese manga. The story revolves around Tanjiro Kamado, a young man recruited to become a Demon Slayer. Tanjiro has a peculiar appearance, from his red hair, scar, or earrings that accompany him throughout the story. But why do these earrings seem to be so crucial in the development of the plot?
Tanjiro Kamado’s earrings are a family heirloom, but they also have a deeper meaning for Muzan Kibutsuji, the plot’s antagonist. They are a constant reminder of their former owner, Yoriichi Tsugikuni, one of the pioneers in slaying demons.
If you want to know more about the history of Tanjiro Kamado’s earrings, their meaning, and the controversy behind them, keep reading.
To give a little more context, let’s look at Tanjiro’s story:
Tanjiro Kamado is a humble young man who lives with his family in the mountains of Japan. His father died, which made him the only income for the family, having to make trips to the nearby villages to sell charcoal. One day, returning from one of his trips, Tanjiro Kamado came home to find his entire family murdered, and his sister turned into a demon. Later, Tanjiro was recruited and trained to become a Demon Slayer to avenge his family’s death and save his sister.
When Tanjiro’s father died, he left the earrings to his son. Therefore, they can be considered as a family heirloom. Tanjiro’s dad was a member of the Breath of the Sun, which gives the earrings a deeper meaning, as they can be translated as some talisman.
Throughout the story, we can see the contempt that Muzan Kibutsuji, the main antagonist, has for the earrings that Tanjiro wears. The cause of this negative feeling towards the garment has another narrative that explains why: Yoriichi Tsugikuni was one of the first Demon Slayers and one of the most legendary. He had a personal fight with Muzan Kibutsuji, as the antagonist turned his twin brother into a demon, causing Yoriichi Tsugikuni to pursue him to take revenge constantly.
At one point, Yoriichi Tsugikuni confronted Muzan Kibutsuji, leaving him on the brink of life and death. This confrontation is why Muzan hates anyone who intimately wears the earrings because they remind him of when Yoriichi almost killed him.
However, how did Yoriichi Tsugikuni’s earrings come into possession of Tanjiro Kamado?
When Yoriichi Tsugikuni was younger, his mother thought he was deaf. For this, her mother made her a pair of hanafuda earrings, symbolizing a good luck talisman. Hanafuda is a card game of Japanese origin, smaller than the standard cards used in America. The designs are inspired by flowers and objects of cultural and symbolic places in Japan. However, the designs that we can see on the earring are not found in the original card game.
Later, since Yoriichi had no descendants, he gifted the pair of earrings to his close friend Sumiyoshi, who happened to be Tanjiro Kamado’s great-great-grandfather. Yoriichi taught him a technique valuable to the Demon Slayers called Breath of the Sun, along with the earrings. Then, Sumiyoshi passed the Breathing Styles and the earrings to her descendants, who will pass them on until they reach Tanjiro. Eventually, each Demon Slayer will develop a Breathing Style that matches their fighting technique, like Breath of the Water, Breath of the Sound, or Breath of the Flowers.
The earrings are only shown on characters like Yoriichi Tsugikuni, Tanjuro, the protagonist’s father, and Tanjiro Kamado. Because the similarity between the characters is that they dominate the Breath of the Sun, it is assumed that only those who learned this style are worthy of wearing these hanafuda earrings.
The drawing embodied in the earrings has two points of view. The first is a white flower with a red center with a gray half-circle. The flower may be a White Chrysanthemum, which represents truth, grief, or pain in Japanese culture and is commonly used at funerals. White and red are predominant colors in Japanese culture. The color red symbolizes happiness, passion, and joy. The color white symbolizes truth, peace, and purity, but it also refers to death. The color gray is used to refer to safety and reliability. Also, it is used for wisdom, maturity, modesty, and intelligence.
The second way to see Yoriichi Tsugikuni’s earring is a sun rising above a mountain. Some theories say it refers to Sunlight Mountain, where the demon slayers obtain the metals to forge their swords. The story says that it is a mountain where the sun is the strongest because, according to the manga, it is the highest mountain in Japan and the only place they can get Scarlet Ore.
The problem with the earrings that used to belong to Yoriichi Tsugikuni is their resemblance to the Japanese flag of the Rising Sun. This flag was used in the Second World War by the Japanese military to colonize other Asian nations. For the occupied countries, the flag symbolizes the cruelty and evil of the ancient Japanese and represents the oppression of their people.
In its origins, Japan was self-recognized as the Rising Sun because, due to its geographical location, the sun covers the archipelago of Japan before other countries.
Then, the flag was used as a signal of war. It symbolizes the time of Japanese imperialism, and countries like South Korea are against its use. For the dominated countries, the flag represents the death of sovereignty when the native soldiers were forced to fight for Japan, and young women were forced to serve as company ladies or as sex slaves. It is a prohibited symbol in some countries because it is considered the symbol of the Nazis, the Swastika, but an Asian version. The Rising Sun is also considered a symbol of racism against the Korean and Chinese people.
At present, the flag is used in Japanese books, comics, manga, anime, series, and films to symbolize that period of strength and power of Japanese imperialism. However, some of these visuals or audiovisuals have objected to getting this symbol in them. Due to its meaning for other Asian cultures, they had to change or eliminate the mark. This has been the case of Demon Slayer, who has had to modify Tanjiro Kamado’s earrings due to their resemblance to the Rising Sun flag.
Instead of having vertical lines going from the center circle to the edges, the producers changed them to four horizontal lines in the middle of the design. Thus, its resemblance to the Rising Sun no longer exists, and the animated illustration may continue to be successful in other Asian countries.
Tanjiro Kamado’s earrings are an essential piece in the development of the Demon Slayer plot. They are used to highlight the importance of the characters and add a relationship between them. These earrings represent the strength, agility, intelligence, and ability of those worthy of wearing them.
However, you may see different designs in some illustrations, which will tell you where the anime you are watching was premiered. If you have the original White Chrysanthemum flower design, it is from Japan. If your design is the four horizontal lines, it was released in a country in South or East Asia that has been subjected to Japanese imperialism, such as Korea or China.