Twelve Plate Japanese Helmet
Place of Origin: Japan, Momoyama period
Overall Height: 320mm
Bowl Diameter: 250mm
A Twelve plate Japanese shiinomi nari-bachi from the Momoyama period (1573-1615). The shiinomi (acorn shape) helmet bowl is formed from twelve iron plates. The integral oroshi mabizashi (peak) is nicely shaped with a small indent on the leading edge that roughly conforms to the brow line of the wearer. A single tsunomoto (prong) centrally mounted allows a maedate (front crest) to be fitted while two larger iron posts protrude from each side of the bowl to allow wakidate (side crests) to be mounted.
The exterior of the bowl has been finished with cha urushi, a type of lacquer with a deep brown colour. The bowl is fitted with a graceful six lame iron hineno shikoro (close fitting neck guard), laced in purple silk odoshi (braid), with a further decorative white band to the bottom lame and lacquered in black.
The maedate front crest and the wakidate side crests give the helmet a strong Buddhist theme; depicting the hoju no tama (flaming jewel) which signifies the highest plane of enlightenment in Buddhist philosophy. The inside of the helmet bowl has a red lacquer signature of the Iwai school.
The Iwai of Nara were katchu-shi (armourers) specializing in the assembly and lacing of armour and in 1600 Iwai Yozaemon earned the trust of Tokugawa Ieyasu during the battle of Sekigahara when Leyasu wore a specially made set of Yozaemon's armour and won a great victory. Leyasu became Shogun (military dictator) in 1603 and afterwards the armour made by the Iwai for each successive Shogun were ritually displayed every eleventh of January in the tokonoma (alcove) of the Kuro-shonin, the room in Edo Castle where the Shogun received daimyo.
This dramatic kabuto (helmet) would have been worn in battle by a samurai of some importance at end of the Sengoku-Jidai (age of the country at war) a period of 170 years of devastating civil war which ended with Tokugawa Leyasu becoming Shogun.
While the shiinomi shape is not considered a kawari kabuto (unique helmet) the addition of large flaming jewel wakidate make a very bold statement. During the Momoyama Period samurai who could afford it wore flamboyant helmets, like this one so they could be easily identified by friend and foe alike on the crowded battlefields of the late 16th century.