Suji-bachi kabuto

A russet iron samurai helmet

Mid Edo period, 18th century

Signed: Jōshū jū Saotome Ieharu


L. Taelman Collection


T. Orikasa, Helmets of the Saotome School, 2010, pp. 104-105

Rare 62-plate helmet joined with five rows of visible rebated rivets.  Inside is the "Saotome-byo," an additional rivet used almost as a signature by armorers of the Saotome school.

The shikoro (neck guard) is original, consisting of five plates covered in red leather and folded at the front to form two small fukigaeshi bearing a kamon (family crest) showing two crossed hawk feathers. 

The Saotome school takes its name from the village in Hitachi province where it originated in the early 17th century. According to the Meiko Zukan, the most important ancient manuscript on Japanese armor, it was founded by Saotome Chikara, a samurai in the service of the Tagaya clan, who began his work after becoming a ronin. After the Battle of Sekigahara, the Tagaya clan was in fact dispossessed of the territories it controlled because of treason to the Uesugi clan, and it is therefore likely that the Saotome school was founded after 1600, although it is unclear where Ietada-this is the name Chikara chose to sign his works-acquired such mastery. The school remained active until the end of the 18th century and focused on the production of kabuto, while neglecting the making of menpō and other armor parts. The lamellar-type helmets (suji-bachi and koboshi) produced by the Saotome smiths are of the highest standard, made of excellent quality iron worked in perfect geometries. The exact genealogy of the school is unknown, and the names that appear on the kabuto (Ietada, Iehisa, Iesada, Ienao, Ienari, Iechika) probably cover multiple generations of smiths who used the same signatures. 

As in this case, on kabuto produced by the Saotome school there is nearly always a sort of trademark, a way to distinguish their production from others: this is the saotome-byō, a small round or octagonal washer attached with a special rivet to the inside of the kabuto, toward the peak.  


Inventory Nr: 2

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