Friday, 9 May 2014

Turning Japanese . . .

Someone posted this photo on Twitter earlier, and I was immediately intrigued :
I probably know what some of you are thinking, but for those who's minds aren't in the sewer :-) it's a 17th Century Japanese Warrior's helmet in the shape of a dragonfly, as used by a high-ranking Warlord during the feudal wars of the time.
It's made from iron, lacquer, wood, leather, gilt pigments, silk, and papier-mâché.
An iron bowl is covered with papier-mâché over a wooden framework to form the body of the insect, and covered with lacquer. Wooden wings flare to the sides, while the insect’s eyes are rendered as large golden orbs.
For over 200 years from the 15th century onwards, times were turbulent in Japan. Feudal lords fought with rival clans to secure their lands. They amassed large armies whose effectiveness depended on being properly armed and outfitted, but having to create so many helmets and armours prompted craftsmen to fashion simple designs which were of course cheaper and quicker to make.
But at the same time, high-ranking Warlords began to embellish their helmets with sculptural forms so they could be easily located on the battlefield.
Exotic helmets (kawari kabuto) allowed leaders to choose symbolic motifs that reflected their personalities, like this superb example of a dragonfly, for in Japan, the dragonfly symbolizes focused endeavour and vigilance among other things, due to its ability to move up, down and sideways while continuing to face forward.
They were thought to be the spirits or guardians of the rice because they were often seen hovering above the flooded rice fields, and in fact due to their abundance there, ancient texts refer to Japan as Akitsushima, which translates as Island of the Dragonflies.

Sounds like El Dorado to me !

Here's another example I found, a more arty rendering of the same subject:

Don't think I'll be getting one though, don't want to look dafter than I already do :-)


  1. Would Mrs. M. be concerned if you walked in wearing either of those ?
    Talking of stunning, have a look at that blog, if you haven't already. Even if you just look at the piccies (the last four posts). Stunning, as i said. Images i aspire to.

  2. Yes John, the photos on that blog are amazing, I'll be looking in regularly, in fact I'll add the link to my favourites.