To protect the samurai warrior, a sophisticated, flexible suit of armor developed through the ages. There was complete freedom in its design, determined solely by the wealth of the patron and the creativity of the armorer. Some families traditionally wore lacing or lacquer of a certain color, or adopted a particular design for the helmet crest.
The materials used in the construction of the suit were numerous: iron for the helmet, face mask, and breastplate; chain mail on arms and legs; leather slats and lacquer; rich silk brocade for the sleeves; and colorful silk lacing. When traveling, the armor fit into a wooden chest. The crossed eagle feathers seen here on the leather-covered chest comprise the crest of the Asano and Kubo families.
More than any other element of the armor, it was the helmet that embodied the samurai’s personality, wealth, and social status. The crest on the front of the helmet served to identify the wearer, his interests, religious leanings, or clan. Helmet crests could be fantastic and wonderful, like this red lacquer lobster claw.
This 62-plate ribbed helmet was made and signed by Japan’s most famous metalsmith, Myochin Nobuie, in 1525. What makes it especially rare and interesting is the dent on the front - made by a bullet from a matchlock gun, used to test the helmet’s strength against bullets.
3x50@50: IMJ Collection Highlights, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 2015