Kawari Kabuto

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

During Japan’s Warring States period, armorers developed a new, simpler helmet design, which had fewer (incidentally) ornamental features — ribs, ridges, rivets, etc. — and so they purposely developed the new streamlined helmet into the extremely ornate kawari kabuto, or strange helmet:

To offset the plain, utilitarian form of the new helmet, and to provide visibility and presence on the battlefield, armorers began to build fantastic shapes on top of the simple helmets in harikake (papier-mâché mixed with lacquer over a wooden armature), though some were constructed entirely of iron. These shapes mimicked forms from Japanese culture and mythology, including fish, cow horns, the head of the god of longevity, bolts of silk, head scarves, Ichi-no-Tani canyon, and axe heads, among many others. Some forms were realistically rendered, while others took on a very futuristic, modernist feel.

Some of these examples are amazing:

Kawari Kabuto 01

Kawari Kabuto 02

Kawari Kabuto 03

Kawari Kabuto 04

Kawari Kabuto 05

Kawari Kabuto 06

Kawari Kabuto 07

Kawari Kabuto 08

Kawari Kabuto 09

Kawari Kabuto 10

Kawari Kabuto 11

Kawari Kabuto 12

Kawari Kabuto 13

Kawari Kabuto 14

Kawari Kabuto 15


  1. Those are rather fantastical, and the diversity of styles is very impressive. The fourth down looks almost Art Deco.

  2. Grasspunk says:

    Two snakes facing each other, but they are one.

  3. Isegoria says:

    I am deeply ashamed that I did not immediately get the Conan reference.

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