This is a beautiful kabuto (helmet) comprised of 32 individual plates that have been joined with each plate having thirteen small rivets for a total of 480 rivets. Under the head of each rivet is a small chrysanthemum shaped washer at its base making this a zaboshi style suji kabuto. The front plate (mae shochu-ita) is wider than the rest of the plates of the helmet and accommodates a double row of zaboshi, while the rear plate (ushiro shochu-ita) has been left free of rivet heads. As is usual on almost all multi-plate helmets, the outer edge of each plate is turned upward to form a narrow flange (suji). This is why we call these types of helmets suji kabuto. On this helmet each suji has been embellished by covering the sujiwith a copper-gilt strips called fukurin. This fukurin also covers the koshimaki around the bottom of the hachi (bowl). This certainly adds beauty to the overall appearance of the kabuto.
The rear view of the kabuto shows the ring (kosho-no-kan) to which in ancient times was attached a small banner known as a kasa-jirushi. This provided identification on the field of battle. The use of the kasa-jirushi was abandoned around the end of the Heian period but the ring remained on the rear of the helmet bowl as a vestigial reminder of older times. On this kabuto a cord of light maroon silk with tassels on the ends is attached to the ring and tied with a decorative knot known as an agemaki.
The gilt tehen-no-kanamono (the ornament surrounding the hole in the crown of the kabuto) is comprised of five stages (layers) and quite decorative. The tehen-no-kanamono is also a vestigial reminder of older times when the hole was much larger and the Samurai’s topknot was pulled through the hole when the helmet was worn. The hole remains if only to provide decoration and possibly some ventilation for the wearer.
The mabizashi (front brim) is attached to the kabuto using three large rivets all of which also have large decorative washers (zaboshi) together with two smaller rivets that do not. The rim of the mabizashi is edged with an intricately tooled fukurin. The mabizashi has been covered in doe skin that has been beautifully stenciled. Just above the center large rivet and attached to the bottom of the double wide front plate is the haraidate (holder for the front decoration). This helmet sports a maedate of carved wood depicting an inome (boar’s eye) done in gold and black. Attached to each side of the kabuto is a wakidate (holders for a side decoration). Attached to each is a large metal wakidate that are painted in black and gold to represent holly leaves. There are some minor losses to the paint.
The shikoro (neck guard) is comprised of five lames that have been laced in a dark blue ito and done in kibiki style. The top lame turns back into two fukigaeshi each of which bears a large brass family crest with a design of bamboo that has been placed on the same type of stenciled doe skin as was used on the mabizashi. Like the suji and the mabizashi, these fukigaeshi are edged in copper gilt edging that has been intricately tooled. The shikoro post-dates the hachi (bowl) and was probably added during the middle Edo period.
The inside of the kabuto still retains its ukebari (liner). The liner was split by a former owner in the front. This was done, no doubt, to determine if the bowl was signed by its maker. There is no signature visible on the inside front of the bowl, but it is not possible to see if it was signed on the inside of the rear plate. This was also a common practice so it could very well be signed.
The overall shape of this kabuto is strikingly similar to kabuto of the Myôchin group that worked in Odawawa in the Momoyama era which was at the end of the Muromachi era. The overall shape of the bowl is slightly higher at the back than the front. This shape is called Akodanari (the akoda is a squash-like vegetable). The presence of fukurin and zaboshi, and the absence of hibiki-no-ana are all characteristics of Odawara bowls. Whether or not this bowl is signed by its craftsman among the Sôshû Myôchin family of smiths who worked in Odawara during the later-half of the sixteenth century, there can be no doubt that it is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship that has survived well for hundreds of years.