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Neurosurgery. 2002 Oct;51(4):871-9.

The Kabuto, or the Japanese helmet: evolution from war implement to status symbol.

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  • 1Department of Neurosurgery, Kumamoto University School of Medicine, Japan.


WARRIORS THROUGHOUT THE AGES have considered the unprotected head to be particularly vulnerable. The traditional Japanese helmet, the Kabuto, was the part of a protective suit of armor that reflected the wearer's character and personality. Over time, it changed from a primarily protective device to a vehicle for the expression of a distinctly Japanese sense of magnificent artistry. Each Kabuto was custom-made, and these helmets remain without peer in the world. They were designed and crafted to answer the demands of their era, and thus they provide historical evidence not only of the state of Japanese warfare, but also of social organization, metallurgical knowledge, artisanship, and aesthetic sensibility. Even now, during the national Golden Week Festival in early May, Kabuto are displayed in the alcoves of Japanese homes as a petition that the boys in the house be granted courage and good health. Thus, even in modern Japan, the Kabuto represents a talisman. We present an overview of the evolution of the Kabuto, with special reference to the Japanese sword and the warrior tradition.

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