Jingasa (Soldier’s Caps)
By Akemi Masaharu : Excerpt from Daruma 27
Japanese know the word jingasa (soldier’s cap), but not its history, variety of shapes or usage. They appear in period dramas or festivals, but there are few systematic studies of the subject. Publications and exhibitions on swords and armour abound, but not on jingasa. Several are displayed at museums, but as supporting actors, not stars. However, jingasa developed both in shape and decoration during the Edo era (1603-1867) and were a symbol of samurai culture. This article introduces a “beauty of Japan” whose taste differs from swords and armour.
All jingasa shown here were made from the mid to late Edo era (c. 1700-1860). The following are my current personal views on jingasa.
What are Jingasa? Some readers may know nothing of jingasa, so first an ABC.
Jingasa were a cap used in battle, so part of a soldier’s outfit. In fights, samurai of rank wore kabuto (helmets) to protect their heads, while those of low standing like ordinary soldiers and ashigaru (footmen) wore no expensive helmets but cheap, mass-produced caps made of paper, leather or iron. In the Edo era people lived in peace and samurai were in power, so the caps they wore on official duty were also called jingasa.
Apart from protection (the main function), a jingasa carried out the functions essential to caps: sunshade and rainshelter. It played too the role of a marker indicating the status of the wearer’s family in society. They were used as a container or weapon too, as explained later.
It is said that the Pickelhaube (see fig. 3) was a European counterpart of jingasa. The former was a helmet, but decorative and a marker of corps or rank, unlike today’s helmets which are for protection. Pickelhaube were not bulletproof. They were made of metal or leather, so resembled jingasa in material.
Origin of name ‘jingasa’
The origin of the word jingasa is unclear but appears in the Zôhyô Monogatari of c. 1657; the word probably spread in the 17th century. ‘Kasa’ means ‘hat’ and ‘jin’ means military.
The author works in Osaka. He collects and studies jingasa. He happened to purchase one at an antique fair and fell in love. He is impressed by their beauty and variety of shapes. You can read the rest of this article by buying Daruma 27 from our Back Issues section.