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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Cool Japan Photo #3 - Strange Samurai Headgear And Table

Here's another cool photo from the long-gone history of Japan. The image shows a Japanese samurai dressed in formal garb… but certainly not the formal garb I am used to seeing.

What's with the hair covering?

Could this photo show a defiant samurai warrior post-1868, after the warrior class was ordered to cut their chonmage (topknot) and to desist performing their samurai duties.

Now… the Japanese top knot was not a fashion style limited to the samurai… it was so popular that every male in Japan began wearing one… pretty much, anyway.

And that whole shaved front part of the head… that was supposedly built on practicality… to make the warrior headgear feel more comfortable on themselves… whatever… I suppose I would believe that… but I do believe it is better to look good than to feel good.

In 2014, samurai are still a much revered part of Japanese history, with families still  proudly displaying family samurai heirlooms, or businesses displaying beautiful swords and suits of armor to show not only their respect for Japanese history, but to show that they enjoy the warrior mentality of business.

Basically, the samurai warriors were and are highly respected and regarded amongst the whole of Japan.

Even us foreigners are fascinated by the whole samurai code - Bushido (The Way of the Warrior) that they lived by… not to mention the ultra cool katana swords.

But really… what is up with that head covering? I can't find any mention of such a style of head covering anywhere on the 'Net… perhaps it's just a one off?

From what I have read, when out of armor—and this samurai is—one could wear eboshi, which is a cap made of black silk gauze stiffened with a black lacquered paper lining. The cap was held in place either by a white cord, or was pinned to the samurai's topknot. The size and shape of the cap was largely dependent on the samurai's rank, though the use of eboshi was reserved for only the most formal of events by the 16th Century.

Here are a few images of eboshi… but these look nothing like what our samurai warrior has on his head.
Let's try an look at the photo from a different point of view:

It appears as though—in my opinion—that the photo shows a man who has NOT worn this samurai outfit in some time, and only put it on for the express purpose of this photograph.

Why do I say that?

Look at the folding crease marks going horizontally on the skirting? I'm not talking about the vertical pleating… I am talking about the left to right folds denoting the fact that this piece of clothing has been sitting folded in a drawer or something equivalent.

If he was a high-level samurai still with his rank, I would assume that his retainers would ensure that his robes et al were in impeccable array.

I'm not saying that a samurai needs to be done up in the most expensive clothing around—that's the farthest thing from the truth.

According to Hojo Soun, the first head of the Hōjō clan—one of the major powers in Japan's Sengoku period—he was born in 1432, dying in 1519: "Don't think your swords and clothing should be as good as those of other people. Be content as long as they don't look awful."

Okay… let's go an even farther route as far as gamboling about this samurai photo:

Does anyone else think that the table he is resting upon is just the most amazing looking piece of furniture ever?

Seriously… I'm sure the costume and swords are worth more to collectors, but give me that table/stand anyway!

If anyone out there has any idea what's up with the headgear of the samurai in this photo, please let me know. I hate not knowing stuff.

Andrew Joseph

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