What is Maedate of Samurai Armor?
The term "Maedate" refers to a decorative object attached to the very front of a helmet (Kabuto). It originated during the Nanbokucho period. The main types include the "Kuwagata", the "Hange" which is a half-moon shape that appeared after the Muromachi period, and the "Tentsuki" which is a Kuwagata shape without decoration. It is made from materials such as wood, tanned leather, and Japanese paper.
Maedate serves both practical and symbolic roles. It aids in identifying allies in battle and potentially deflects sword strikes. It also signifies the wearer’s identity, family crest, or allegiances, and can symbolize status and prestige. Designs vary from simple crests to elaborate creations, adding personalization and cultural significance to the samurai armor.
Types of Maedate
The most common type is the Kuwagata, it has a long history and many types have been devised. Particularly, many samurai adopted the U-shaped Kuwagata, whose horn tips spread out. It was used for about 600 years from the Heian period to the end of the samurai era in the late Edo period, different designs changes its shape in detail.
定番の角形前立 Standard Horn-shaped Maedate
This is also a very popular type of meadate that protrudes upward, similar to the Kuwagata. The “Tentsuku ” 天衝 (a type of horn) with tapering horns that grow large is especially used in Hikone Domain (now Shiga Prefecture). The Hikone Domain adopted the “Akazonae”赤備え (red armors) for armor from the lord to the foot soldiers, and distinguished the helmet decorations as Tentsuku for the lord and Maedate for the samurai. This Tentsuku also comes with the armor used by Hikone Domain samurai “Ito Gonbei”.
In terms of specific shapes, there is the “Kazuno”鹿角 (deer horn). The coolness of the horn itself is a reason for its popularity as a helmet decoration, as well as the fact that deer were considered messengers of the war god Kashima Myojin and the Fujiwara family’s deity Kasuga Myojin.
天体・信仰の前立 Maedate of faith
Samurai prayed to the gods and Buddha they believed in for achievements in battle and personal safety. Therefore, there are decorations with designs related to gods and Buddha. In addition, celestial bodies such as the sun and moon were regarded as the same as gods and Buddha and became objects of faith, so they are included in this category.
The sun is expressed as a circle, and the sun wheel (日輪) Maedate, which shines with gold leaf, is common. However, the moon, which waxes and wanes, has decorations for each variation such as crescent, half moon, and new moon. The crescent Maedate used by “Date Masamune” is famous, but in Maedate, you often see a crescent like 9 or 10 with both ends pointed like horns.
There are also things that express utensils and words related to faith. For example, the Maedate that imitates the divine tag of “Tensho Kotai Jingu” written as 12, and the Maedate that carries the “Rokujimyogo” (六字名号) of “Namu Amida Butsu”(南無阿弥陀仏佛), which is chanted in the Jodo sect, are examples.
神獣・生物の前立 Mythical animals and Living Creatures Maedate
There are Maedate that adopt mythical animals such as dragons and lions, which symbolize power and bravery, and animals that were considered messengers of gods and Buddha. Other creatures include rabbits, which are fast and prolific, and turtles, which are long-lived and have sturdy shells, were chosen for their auspicious characteristics related to their nature.
家紋の前立 Family Crest Maedate
There are also cases where the wearer’s family crest was used as is for the Maedate. These range from simple designs where the family crest is drawn on a flat plate, to more elaborate examples where the design is rendered in three dimensions, or the family crest is arranged to add variation.
See more terms related to samurai armor in this samurai armor glossary