What is Tatemono of Samurai Armor?
The term "Tatemono" refers to a decorative object attached to the bowl (Hachi) of a helmet (Kabuto). It serves various purposes such as making the wearer stand out in a group, serving as a marker among allies, and expressing the wearer's desire for self-display. The name changes depending on where it is attached: "maedate" is attached to the front, "Wakidate" to the side, "Zudate" to the top, and "Ushirodate" to the back.
The “Tatemono” (立物) of the helmet is a general term for objects that decorate the helmet and demonstrate the dignity and presence of the wearer by standing on the “Mabizashi” (眉庇・目庇) and “Hachi” (鉢). It was used not only to gain recognition from lords and vassals for one’s position and fighting style on the battlefield, but also to assert oneself against enemies and prevent friendly fire. After battles, it was necessary to verify the achievements of the participants, and testimonies about what kind of helmet decoration the achiever wore were often used. Other markers on the battlefield included “Sashimono” (指物), “Uma Jirushi” (馬印), “Jinbaori” (陣羽織), and the color of the “Odoshige” (縅毛) of the armor, but the most commonly used was the Tatemono.
Most Tatemono designed are inspired by animals, plants, and utensils, as well as those rooted in faith, such as the sun and moon. The materials varied, including iron, copper, gold, silver, brass, wood, bamboo, animal horns, tusks, and leather. Depending on the position, the Tatemono is divided into “Maedate” (前立), “Zudate” (頭立), “Wakidate” (脇立), and “Ushirodate” (後立).
In the era of “Tosei Gusoku” (当世具足), the Tatemono became larger and more elaborately designed. The warlords of the Warring States period began to use the Tatemono as a means to express their thoughts, beliefs, and worldview.
History of Tatemono
The origin of “Tatemono” (立物), or helmet decorations, is said to date back to the burial helmets found in ancient burial mounds. A representative example is the “Mabizashi Tsuki Kabuto” (眉庇付冑), which has a shape similar to a baseball cap.
This helmet has a circular iron plate called “Fuseita” (伏板) on the top, and on top of this plate, there are two hemispherical metal fittings called “Fusebachi” (伏鉢) and “Ukebachi” (受鉢) connected by a cylindrical metal fitting called “Kan” (管). This assembly is then mounted on the helmet in a drum-like shape. The Mabizashi Tsuki Kabuto was used from the mid-5th century to the 6th century.
In the Middle Ages, the mainstream was a type of “Maedate” (前立), called “Kuwagata” (鍬形). However, in the early Middle Ages, the Tatemono (Kuwagata) was not universal, but had significance as a symbol of status for generals leading armies. From the end of the Heian period, dragons began to be used. Then, from the Nanbokucho period to the Warring States period, new forces emerged riding the wave of social upheaval. Along with this, Tatemono and decorations became universal and fashionable.
In the early Nanbokucho period, the sun wheel and moon wheel (Gachirin) were used. The sun wheel was considered a symbol of “life”, and the moon wheel was considered a symbol of “immortality” and “rebirth”. In addition, various Tatemono with motifs such as lions, demons, horns, mirrors, swords, fans, plants, animals, birds, shellfish, insects, gods and Buddhas, utensils, mountain shapes (Sangyou), nature, family crests, and rings were made.
After the Warring States period, when it became common to equip helmets with Tatemono, they were used as personal military equipment. However, with the transition to a unified group military layer in the Edo period, the purpose changed to clearly distinguish between different families. In other words, the use of “Aijirushi” (合印), or family crests, became mainstream. Specific examples include the “Golden Circle” of the Kishu Tokugawa family, the “Curled Crescent Moon” (Kurihange) of the Mito Tokugawa family, and the “Tensho” of the Hikone Ii family.
Types of Tatemono
Maedate (Front 前立)
The Maedate is considered to be the most commonly used means by which warlords expressed their thoughts in form. Its shapes varied widely, including designs related to Marishiten (a Buddhist deity) and Myoken (a deity of the North Star and Big Dipper) faiths such as sun wheels, half-moons, and crescents, as well as gods, animals, and plants they believed in. In the Tosei Gusoku (modern armor), the Maedate was typically attached by inserting it into the “Haraidate” (a decoration set up on the brim) or the “Tsunomoto” (a protruding plate-shaped metal fitting).
Wakidate (Side 脇立)
In the late Warring States period, Tosei Gusoku helmets appeared with decorations on both sides, known as Wakidate. The Wakidate included designs that represented buffalo horns and U-shaped objects that seemed to pierce the sky, among various other shapes. These shapes directly contributed to the presence of the warlord.
Zudate (Head 頭立)
The Zudate is a decoration placed at the top of the helmet. It was made using various materials, including wood, leather, metal, and feathers or fur from birds and animals. A representative helmet equipped with a Zudate is the “Ginpaku Oshi Ookugi Zudate Tsuki Kanasabiji Hine Nozu Narikabuto” (a helmet with a large nail Zudate on a rusted iron ground, said to be used by Mori Yoshinari). This helmet, with its over 1-meter long large nail, is quite impressive.
Ushirodate (Back 後立)
The Ushirodate is a decoration attached to the back of the helmet. Among the helmets equipped with an Ushirodate, the most famous is the “Ichinotani Barin Ushirodate Kabuto” (a helmet with a horse rush Ushirodate), said to have been used by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. This helmet, with its 29 leaves (horse rushes) arranged as if radiating light, has a very unique Ushirodate. It is so iconic that many people associate this helmet with Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
See more terms related to samurai armor in this samurai armor glossary