Need a set of samurai armor for your cat or dog? This pet supply shop can help

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RocketNews 24 (by Casey Baseel):

Turn your adorable pet into a noble warrior…who’s still adorable!

There seems to be rising demand for samurai fashion, and we’re big proponents of strapping on a set of lamellar whenever the opportunity presents itself. Now, that opportunity has come to pets with wanko kacchu, or doggy armor.

This samurai-style protective gear is offered by Kandaya, a pet supply (or “pet souvenir,” to use Kandaya’s phrasing) in the town of Kurayoshi in Tottori Prefecture.

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If that purple and green color scheme looks familiar, it’s because it’s the same palette used for the Eva Unit-01 giant robot of science fiction anime Neon Genesis Evangelion. There’s also a more traditional set of doggy armor which was first introduced in April.

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Aside from its 50-50 blend of cute and cool, the doggy armor is actually tied into the city’s literary background. Kurayoshi is where the grave of Satomi Tadayoshi is located. A famous samurai, Satomi is said to have been the inspiration for one of the characters in the epic novel known as the Hakkenden, or The Legend of the Eight Dogs.

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Kandaya rents doggy armor out of its shop at a price of 500 yen (US$4.20) for one hour for the original pattern, or 1,000 yen for 90 minutes for the Evangelion-style suit. Granted, the odds of ninja attacking you while you’re strolling around Kurayoshi are extremely slim, but it’s good to know that should you meet with some hostile shinobi, your pet will be properly outfitted.

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Shop information
Kandaya / かんだや
Address: Tottori-ken, Kurayoshi-shi, Uomachi 2568-2
Open 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Closed Tuesdays
Telephone: 050-3564-0345

February 22 is Ninja Day, as these cosplaying civil servants at Koka City Hall just reminded us

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Are you feeling bummed out that February’s two most high-profile holidays, namely Twin Tail Day and Valentine’s Day, are both already over and done with? Cheer up! While it may not necessarily tug at the heartstrings like February 2 and 14, what’s arguably the coolest holiday of the month is coming up this weekend.

That’s because February 22 is officially Ninja Day, and one town in Japan is helping people get into the spirit with a bit of shinobi-style cosplay at its city hall.

The kanji for Shiga Prefecture’s Koka City can also be read as “Koga,” which is a name Japanese history buffs might be familiar with. The Koga Ninja who were based in the area were one of the most formidable shadow warrior forces of Japan’s feudal era, and present-day Koka wholeheartedly embraces this part of its history.

▼ Even the floor of this Koka train station is decorated in a throwing-star pattern.

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Japan loves its puns, and someone noticed that ni, the Japanese word for “two,” is pronounced just like the first of the three syllables in “ninja” (yes, in Japanese, “n” is a syllable all of its own). Before long, support grew for February 22 (2-22) to be known Ninja Day, a designation now officially recognized by the Japan Anniversary Association (the same group which has given its nod of approval to the aforementioned Twintail Day).

In celebration, the five-employee team at the Koka City Tourism Promotion Office has spent the week commuting and working in attire that reflects their city’s claim to fame.

Just to be clear, their workspace isn’t located in the middle of an amusement park or museum. These civil servants go about their duties right smack in the middle of Koka City Hall, just a shuriken’s throw away from the sections of the municipal government responsible for registering marriages and official residence addresses.

Speaking of shuriken, this week the members of the Tourism Promotion Office have also been handing out origami throwing stars to visitors who’ve come in to ask for information about local attractions. On Ninja Day itself, they’ll also be onboard trains on the local Shigaraki Kohgen Railway, once again making paper versions of the tossable tools of the ninja trade.

▼ The mysterious shinobi keep their masks on at all times, even when doing desk work or talking on the phone.

View image on Twitter

Obviously, the Tourism Promotion Office staff would be happiest if you celebrated Ninja Day by taking a trip to their lovely town, maybe to see Koka’s Minakuchi Castle. If you absolutely can’t make it to the home of the Koga Ninja, though, you’ll be happy to know that other organizations across Japan are also doing something special to mark the occasion, with specific details available here on the English-language version of the official Ninja Day website.

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Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s awesome samurai armor exhibition

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RocketNews 24:

At the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, also known by the acronym LACMA, the museum is right in the middle of its exhibition titled Samurai: Japanese Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection.

Swiss transplant and Texas real estate mogul Gabriel has amassed a staggering array of samurai protective gear, a portion of which is currently on loan to the museum located adjacent to Hancock Park on Wilshire Boulevard in downtown Los Angeles.

▼ Note the tengu (raven) motif of the face plate for the left set of armor.

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▼ Helmet ornamentation, from animal-like to religious to just plain massive.

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More than 140 pieces including lamellar breastplates, helms, face guards, and barding are on display. The exhibit is centered on armor worn by high-ranking samurai and daimyo, the regional warlords who ruled fiefs during Japan’s feudal era.

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The pieces vary in age from 14th to 19th century examples, and this broad range is reflected in changes made to armor design as the samurai adapted to the changing nature of battle. During the period in question, military engagements evolved from horseback archery to clashes of spear and sword-wielding infantry, and finally musket volleys when firearms became prevalent after contact with more technologically advanced European nations.

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The exhibition is scheduled run until February 1, so clear out your calendar quickly if you don’t want to miss the opportunity to see these awesome remnants of Japanese history.

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Museum information
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Address: 5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036
Samurai: Japanese Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection website

Historical Japanese swords turn into battle-hardened Blade Boys in new mobile game

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RocketNews 24:

These days, one of the quickest and most popular methods for stocking a video game with a cast of attractive anime-style characters is to pick a class of item and anthropomorphize the heck out of it. There’s currently no hotter mobile game than Kantai Collection, in which players command a fleet of pretty girls who’re all modeled after World War II-era Japanese warships. If naval history isn’t your thing, you can also find titles featuring comely cars and moe mushrooms.

There’s a new entry in the subgenre though, and judging from its all-pretty boy roster of characters, it’s been designed with female otaku gamers in mind. As such, it’s no surprise that the men of Touken Ranbu are all based on something long and hard…plus sharp, as they’re all anthropomorphized swords.

Smartphone game publisher DNN released Touken Ranbu, or Violent Blade Dance, on January 14. With such a warlike title and development being handled by Nitro Plus, the same unit behind busty anime mascot Super Sonico, you might expect Touken Ranbu to be a testosterone-dripping smorgasbord of boobs and swordfights, but the truth is very different.

In recent years, there’s been a surge of interest in historical samurai among young Japanese women, who find themselves drawn to their old-school stoicism and gallantry. More than anyone else, it’s for that demographic that Touken Ranbu’s cast of dudes with smooth facial features and elaborate hairdos was crafted.

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The game’s plot actually starts in 2205, when historical revisionists stage a literal attack on the past in order to alter Japan’s history. The player steps into the role of the saniwa, an entity with the power to awaken the souls of inanimate objects and imbue them with fighting strength. As such, it’s your job to transform the swords of Japan’s feudal era into an army of Touken Danshi, or Blade Boys.

▼ Mikatzuki Munechika, the Heian Era sword (left) and Blade Boy (right)

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Early reviews describe the game as easy to pick up and play, with a streamlined system for equipping characters with special items and simple combat system. While the player assembles squads of up to six members and issues commands to advance or retreat in battle, the Blade Boys will do the rest of their fighting more or less automatically.

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Female otaku in Japan are generally drawn to male characters with tragic pasts, and Touken Ranbu’s theme gives the creators ample sadness to mine. Since the cast all started as inanimate killing instruments, they’ve seen numerous deaths, oftentimes including those of their owners. A few were even used for seppuku, the samurai act of ritual suicide, and carry the psychological burden of having been party to the act.

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As a result, gamers can expect plenty of scenes in which they try to help the Blade Boys work through their emotional baggage. But while many games would use this as a springboard to a romantic relationship, Touken Ranbu keeps such rumblings of the heart low-key, which should help it appeal to the widest possible female fanbase in Japan.

By never definitively stating who the characters have a crush on, Nitro Plus can simultaneously appeal to the three major groups of pretty boy game fans, the fujoshi(who want to see the guys hook up with other guys), the danjo kapu mono (coming from danjo kappuringu mono, or “heterosexual coupling fans”), and the “dreamers”(who’d like to imagine themselves as the object of the affections of the hot guys on screen).

▼ Mixed in among the 19 sword-based characters announced so far is Otegine, who’s actually a Muromachi Period spear.

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The lack of explicit romantic content means that as long as they can get past the female-oriented character designs, heterosexual male gamers should be able to get some enjoyment out of Touken Ranbu’s story too. Serving as world view director and main writer is Yuri Shibamura, who wrote the script for video game-tuned-anime Gunparade March.

Also contributing to the project is Norimitsu Kaiho, whose previous credits include a handful of Guilty Gear games and episodes of mecha anime TV series Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet.

Regardless of which facet of the game strikes your fancy, Token Ranbu can be downloaded here directly from DMM.

Beautiful 400-year-old garden in Okayama, Japan about to be replaced with condominium complex

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RocketNews 24:


Japan loves to devise top three lists, and Okayama City’s Korakuen is held to be one of the country’s three best gardens. Anyone who’s visited will tell you that it’s indeed beautiful, but Korakuen isn’t the city’s only garden, or even its oldest.

Okayama is also where you’ll find Tokoen,a garden with a history that stretches back to the early days of Japan’s feudal Edo era. Tranquil and easily accessed by public transportation, Tokoen would make an ideal spot for history buffs and nature lovers looking for a less crowded, quieter urban oasis than Korakuen.

Sadly, though, after roughly four centuries, Tokoen has closed down, and is soon likely to be demolished and replaced with a condominium complex.

Although the exact year Tokoen was completed is unclear, historians do know that it was initially the private retreat of Ikeda Tadakatsu, the lord whose domain included present-day Okayama City.


▼ Ikeda Tadakatsu

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Ikeda’s short life lasted from 1602 to 1632, making Tokoen one of the oldest gardens in Okayama Prefecture, and also several decades older than Korakuen, which was built in 1700.

The garden’s layout is thought to be the work of noted landscaper Kobori Enshu, who designed Tokoen in the kaiyu style, in which visitors are led on a course that winds around the grounds and past a spring-fed pond and tea house. As with many Japanese gardens, it was created with sight lines that ”borrow” aspects from the surrounding scenery, which in Tokoen’s case means affording visitors views of nearby Mt. Misaoyama.


▼ Tokoen, bursting with greenery…

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▼ …tinged with autumn crimson…

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▼ …and blanketed in snow.

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After the death of Ikeda, ownership of the garden was transferred to the Niwa samurai family, and Tokoen has remained in private hands since. Although Okayama was bombed in the closing days of World War II, the garden escaped damage, and several of its features, such as the pond and seven-layer granite tower (which itself was constructed during the Kamakura period which lasted from the 12th to 14th centuries), have been left as they were when Tokoen was first opened centuries ago.


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Despite remaining in private ownership, for many years the roughly 700-square meter (39,826-square foot) garden was open to the public for a modest 400 yen (US $3.95) admission fee.

Tragedy struck, though, in 2012, when the then-owner of Tokoen passed away. The heirs to the property said they were no longer able to continue operating the garden in its previous capacity, and in May of 2013, entrance to Tokoen became limited to those making advance reservations.

Apparently even this austerity measure was not enough, and on December 3 of the same year, Tokoen closed its gates for good.


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Tokoen was never registered as an official cultural property, and as such does not seem to be eligible for any sort of special protection from the local government. With its former owners incapable of serving as caretakers, the land has been sold off to property developers. According to an article published by the local Sanyo Shimbun newspaper, a multi-floor condominium complex will be built on the site.


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A quick look at the cramped dimensions of the average Japanese home is enough to make almost anyone long for more modern, spacious, and comfortable housing. Still, the loss of what should have been considered a cultural treasure is a high price to pay for such amenities, especially when it seems like more could have been done to prevent the garden’s loss.


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Tokoen is not located in a remote, outlying corner of Okayama City. The city streetcar’s Kadotayashiki Teiryujo stop is right in front of the garden, sitting just 2.7 kilometers (1.7 miles) from Okayama Station and the city center. Nonetheless, little if anything was done to promote Tokoen as a destination for travelers. Most tourism literature makes no mention of it, and even Okayama City’s official website seems to have given no more than a single page to Tokoen, lacking even such basic information as directions for visitors.

We were alerted to this sad tale by a resident of the neighborhood where Tokoen is located. Our source informed us that towards the end of its days, the garden was indeed struggling to draw visitors, who primarily consisted of elderly couples and small groups of amateur photographers and artists.


▼ Demolition of Tokoen’s teahouse is already underway, as can be seen in these photos.

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With buildable land always scarce, it’s an unfortunate fact of life in Japan that in order to put up something new, something old often has to be swept away. The area surrounding Tokoen isn’t immune to such changes, as our source reports. “A little over a year ago we got a new grocery store and the nearby school is expanding. Parking lots are being turned into houses and houses are renovating.”

Still, the sale of Tokoen came as a complete surprise. “A few old homes may have been torn down, but nothing like this.” What makes the situation particularly frustrating is the lack of an earnest attempt to engage the community in finding a way to save the garden. “Had they come forward…people could have helped,” the resident laments. “There have been no signs posted or anything, and the city has said nothing.”

▼ This series of photographs shows the continuing dismantling of structures and removal of trees inside Tokoen.

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With the sale completed, it’s likely too late for historical conservationists to do anything to halt the construction project now. An outpouring of support could, possibly, encourage developers to preserve at least a portion of the garden, or at the very least plant the seed of such an idea in the heads of those in charge of future projects.

If nothing more, hopefully all this will serve as a reminder of the dangers of taking things for granted. Almost every town in Japan has its own Tokoen, someplace that’s been part of the local cultural heritage for so long it’s slowly becoming forgotten, even as its need for support grows more and more critical. So whether you’re a resident or a visitor to Japan, next time you’re at what seems like just another shrine, temple, or garden, consider putting a few yen into the collection box or the hand of a local vendor. Otherwise, you just might find a condo there the next time you stop by.

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Samurai Vader: a historical take on a favorite from a galaxy far, far away


RocketNews 24:

Ever since it hit the scene back in the ’70s, Star Wars was an early pioneer of movie merchandising. Decades later the gravy train of action figures, posters, lunch boxes, notebooks continues. Underoos, Shrinky Dinks, Jell-o molds, clothes hangers, chess sets, virtual keyboards, book ends, and um… I forgot where I was going with this.

For those of you who think it’s all been done before, we present to you something new from Bandai. Behold: Samurai Taisho Darth Vader.

Samurai Taisho Darth Vader fuses the aesthetics of feudal Japan and imperial galaxy far, far away seamlessly. While resembling a traditional suit of samurai armor, we can still see the nuances of Vader’s original suit with his chest plate and that thing on his belt that looks like a 1970s TV remote control. We can compare with this more traditional Vader figure also from Bandai.

Samurai Vader’s armor is also decorated with the emblem of the Galactic Empire which conveniently resembles a kamon or Japanese family crest.

Samurai Taisho Darth Vader is currently on display at the International Tokyo Toy Show 2014 at Big Sight along with some other Star Wars figures from Bandai. The event will be open to the public on 14 and 15 June.

Source: Bandai


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Samurai Vader: a historical take on a favorite from a galaxy far, far away


Pumps with Japanese family crests bring out your inner feudal warlord


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Japanese family crests (or kamon), have been passed down through the generations for centuries, although these days they’re mostly seen in the patterns of kimono or the logos of sushi restaurants, as well as on flags and armour. Kamon are circular, often featuring animal or plant motifs.

These family crests have found a new home now, though – as logos on cute shoes! These kamon pumps, from an Ikebukuro-based cosplay store, use the actual family motifs of four armoured generals (“busho” in Japanese) from the Sengoku period, to make up this new feudal warlord series. We do love it when Japan combines old and new!


▼ The low-heeled pumps feature the kamon of Kuroda Yoshitaka (on black), Akechi Mitsuhide (white), Mōri Motonari (green), and Maeda Toshimasu (orange).



▼ And here’s what Kuroda Yoshitaka‘s family crest looks like when it’s not on patent shoes!

▼ If you’re more of an Akechi kind of girl…


▼ Mōri-san’s kamon is this striking modern-looking design.


▼ And last but not least, the family crest of Maeda Toshimasu.


▼ With a low heel of 1.7cm, these pumps are perfect for day or night; shopping or maybe attending historical conventions.

So if you’ve been looking for a way to show the world your feudal allegiances, you can get your hands on a pair for 6,980 yen (US $68) from Assist Wig, a cosplay wig and accessory store in Ikebukuro, Tokyo.


▼ The full “Sengoku busho shiriisu” (warring states feudal warrior series!)



As one Twitter user has pointed out, kamon pumps bear more than a passing resemblance to these Tory Burch ballet pumps. Although at $265, these come in at a significantly higher price than Assist Wig’s offerings.


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Source: Togech


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Pumps with Japanese family crests bring out your inner feudal warlord


Amazing photography from the 1860s shows us some of Japan’s very last samurai


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RocketNews 24:


Between the way Japan has embraced technology and just how incredibly safe the country is, it’s easy to forget that it really wasn’t so long ago that the whole nation was still under the feudal system. Until 1868, “samurai” was still very much a viable career choice, as the ruling shogunate relied on a trained warrior class to keep the peace.

How much the traditions of Japan’s fabled swordsmen live on in Japanese society today is something scholars love to debate, and while there are points to be made both for and against their importance, there’s one thing that unquestionably remains, and that’s photography of real-life, genuine samurai.

In the early 17th century, the ruling Tokugawa shogunate enacted strict policies isolating Japan from the rest of the world. Eventually, though, more and more contact with the outside world began to trickle into the country, showing just how far behind the rest of the world Japan had slipped scientifically and technologically. The isolationist system was repealed in the 1850s, and in 1868 the feudal government, and with it the samurai, were done away with.

This left only a scant few years during which modern technology and the warrior class coexisted in Japan. One of the first photographers to work in Japan was Italian Felice Beato. Following a working journey through Asia, Beato arrived in 1863, where he settled in Yokohama, then, as now, the choice for dashing expatriates.

Japan had suddenly become the focus of intense international attention, with the outside world eager for its first glimpse at life in the country. Beato was ready to satisfy the world’s curiosity with his photography showing the sights and people of Japan, including the samurai, as shown in these shots from 1866. They may not be quite as handsome as some of the samurai we recently introduced you to, but there’s no denying that these guys look like they could really handle themselves.


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Firearms had been introduced to Japan centuries ago during the Warring States period, but their cumbersome designs and the lack of industry to easily produce them in mass quantities meant that when Beato began working in Japan, the samurai’s traditional armaments were still very much in use.


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Japanese online commentators were just as captivated by Beato’s photography as its original audience must have been.

“Just by looking at their faces, you can tell how much they’ve experienced in life.”

“I wouldn’t want to mess with any of these guys.”

“Wow. If you figure the oldest guy is in his 60s, that means he might have been born in the 17th century.”


We can only hope that the snapshots people have taken of us are this compelling 150 years from now.

Source, images: Labaq


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Amazing photography from the 1860s shows us some of Japan’s very last samurai


Samurai bling: Crazy armor and helmets from medieval Japan

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gamou ujisato

When people think of Japan, they often think about anime or giant robots or giant robot anime. They are also likely to think of Japan’s medieval version of giant robot anime: the samurai. For many of us, the first introduction we got to Japan was through the amazing films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune, leaving with us images of unrelenting master swordsmen.

While the world may mostly be entranced by the swords, it’s impossible to deny the beauty of the armor we also saw on the silver screen. Though surely nothing so fancy was everactually worn during the years of Japan’s civil wars, right??


Actually, quite the opposite! Though we doubt that the more extravagant armor and helmets you’ll see below could be found in the storehouses of lower ranked soldiers, there is no doubt that high-ranking members of the warrior class would gladly splurge on a little bit of bling. After all, no one wants to be the last guy on the battlefield to get a rabbit-ears helmet! Here are some of the craziest armor and helmets we’ve seen from medieval Japan!


gamou ujisato

Though it may look a little bit like Darth Vader strapped a catfish tail on his head, this set of armor was actually worn by Ujisato Gamou, a daimyo (basically a warlord), during the 16th century. We imagine facing him in battle felt like facing the final boss of a video game without getting the chance to level up.

katou kiyomasa

This vaguely skeletal armor, faceplate, and helmet belonged to Kiyomasa Kato, a daimyo during the 16th and 17th centuries. He was also one of the leaders during the Seven-Year War, when Japan invaded the Korean Peninsula. We guess he had a…bone to pick.

katou yoshiakira

This beautiful, squid-like set of armor was owned by Yoshiaki Kato, one of Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s greatest retainers and, after Hideyoshi’s death, a loyal warrior for Tokugawa Ieyasu. Allegedly, it was based on Mt Fuji, but we can’t see anything but Lovecraftian glory in it.

kuroda josui

Here’s a real “pot-head” for you! This helmet, worn by Yoshitaka Kuroda, a master strategist for Toyotomi Hideyoshi in the late-16th and early-17th centuries, looks as if it were grabbed off of the dinner table just after finishing a nice big bowl of rice.

matsudaira nobukazu

Meow! It seems that even the warriors of medieval Japan loved lolcats! This armor belonged to Nobukazu Matsudaira, a well-respected, fierce warrior who received rewards from Nobunaga and Ieyasu. Apparently, his helmet was actually supposed to be based on a horned owl, but once you see them as cat ears, you just can’t see anything else!

Yamauchi toyomasa

This bunny-eared helmet was worn by Toyomasa Yamauchi, a feudal lord during the Edo Period, a time of relative peace. Even though he was considered a masterful swordsman, it’s unlikely that this helmet ever saw combat. Which is just as well! It’s far too cute for that.

Toudou Takatora

This helmet was owned by Takatora Todo, a daimyou who started out as a regular foot soldier. In addition to his snazzy fashion sense, Takatora was also famous for designing excellent castles, like Imabari Castle in Ehime. Though this helmet looks like a dragonfly, it’s apparently supposed to be based on a cap worn by officials during China’s T’ang dynasty.

Akechi samanosuke

Another bunny-eared helmet, this beautiful piece of armor belonged to Samanosuke Akechi, who you may know from Onimusha. Though we don’t think we wore anything quite so cute in the game.

Matsudaira chikatada

This one, which looks like it belonged to a very enthusiastic furry instead of its real owner, Chikatada Matsudaira, is one of the rare helmets with fur on the outside. Usually the leather or fur is on the inside for comfort. We guess Chikatada was just too badass for comfort!

rabbit helmet

The owner of this rabbit helmet is unknown, unfortunately. We can only imagine how many crappy hopping jokes he had to put up with.

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Adorned with the kanji for “big,” this over-sized helmet belonged to Muneshige Tachibana, who is most famous for his “sun” helmet. We can’t help wondering if there are some “small” and “medium” helmets out there waiting to be discovered…

spiney lobster

This helmet is less cute and more “delicious,” if you happen to like Japanese spiny lobster. We’re not sure who this belonged to, but we imagine he got quite a bit of attention on the battlefield. Which, now that we think about it, seems like the opposite of a good idea…

sea snail (turban)

Here’s another seafood inspired helmet! Again, we’re not sure who this belonged to, but we suppose that basing your helmet on a strong, sturdy shell makes sense. Or maybe the owner got his lunch order and his helmet order mixed up.


Boy, it sure seems like those medieval samurai just couldn’t get enough seafood! We don’t know who wore this helmet either, but we think Red Lobster should make all their employees wear replicas!

Kuroda Nagamasa

This water-buffalo-inspired helmet once rested over the brow of Nagamasa Kuroda, son of Yoshitaka Kuroda. Though not a great strategist like his father, Nagamasa was well-known for his military valor, so we imagine he fully earned the horns on his armor.

date shigezane

And finally, we have the centipede helmet! We’re not sure if Shigezane Date, the owner of the armor, was just trying to creep everyone out or if he just had a really weird thing for the insects…

Actually, it turns out that during the feudal period in Japan, it was believed that centipedes could not back down, so they were seen as a symbol of perseverance. A cool concept, to be sure, but we’re not sure its worth it to have a freaking centipede on your face…

We hope you enjoyed this very brief look at some of the unique armor and helmets from one of Japan’s violent periods. The gear might not always have been practical, but at least it looks cool in our museums now!


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Samurai bling: Crazy armor and helmets from medieval Japan