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Japanese hachimaki headbands - not just for Kamakazi pilots?


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Bob Hudson

I friend called and said someone have him things from a Pacific War veteran including "a kamikaze headband." He brought it over and I said basically, I think these "hachimaki"  headbands were worn by all sorts of Japanese military and - presumably - actual kamakazi headbands went down with the pilot.  No idea what this says. It is bright white and looks a lot newer than WWII.

 

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Fortunes Of War

Hi Bob-

     The idea of hachimaki worn by kamikaze pilots, suicide submariners and suicide fast boat pilots, etc. (and their support personnel for that matter) has been heavily discussed over the years.  The headbands were originally inspirational gifts, presented during the war by Army Major General Saburo Endo.  He held various posts during the war, including being superintendent of the Imperial Japanese Army Air Academy in Dec. 1942. 

     The headbands were gifted away to many military persons and to civilians alike.  Numerous photographs exist that show factory workers, including women, wearing the kamikaze marked hachimaki.  The idea was that every person, when added together, had the power to bring about the defeat of the enemy, in much the same way that Divine Winds destroyed the Mongol navies in 1274 and 1281. 

     Many of the headbands seen were printed with the characters, "Divine Wind", the name of Saburo Endo, and a saying by him.  Other examples exist that have the red sun and two black, inked characters, painted by hand with nothing else illustrated, and there are others as well.  Divine Wind headbands were sometimes collected by Allied servicemen in Japan, post-war.  They were also remade in the recent past and marketed to collectors; I have even seen them sold in different venues in Japan today.  I'm sure that many of these headbands are accompanied by legitimate, as well as concocted stories of how "Grandpa Joe" acquired it or about the people who wore them.

     Without proper provenance, there is no way of knowing the legitimacy of any kamikaze related hachimaki.  I would suggest that not all headbands worn by kamikaze ended up at the bottom of the ocean.  For different reasons, some of those training in the different suicide corps' and who never fulfilled their final missions, owned such headbands; I would say these are legitimate examples.  Also, support personnel (aircraft maintenance, etc.) had versions of these, that were mostly handmade or given to the men as gifts.  Other examples that have been called "crudely printed", were actually created by making the red sun in the center of the hachimaki, out of blood.  Some of those were done by a single person, while others combined their drops of blood as a firm promise, to the purpose of the mission.  I can't imagine a more personal example, than one created out of blood. 

     All of this begs the question: Are there legitimate "kamikaze" headbands that don't have the characters "Divine Wind" on them?  I would say the answer is probably yes.  Since these were such personal items, different patterns existed.  As examples, some may have said, "Certain Victory" or carried other popular slogans, etc.  It's probably that some carried no kanji characters/slogans at all.  I hope this helps provide additional information on your friend's hachimaki.  

 

MikeB

     

          

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Fortunes Of War

I just came across this "kamikaze" headband, offered for sale on a Japanese auction site.  The opening asking price is nearly $180.00 U.S., yikes!

 

MikeB

Endo hachimaki (2).jpg

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Jack the Collector

This is a interesting topic.I do not collect WW2 pacific theater and I am enjoying the Japanese section of this forum for topics like this.Mike B your previous post was very informative for clueless old me.I have a couple of questions.Are this tied in to Samurai culture?I would think a headband of WW2 vintage is worth $180 US so I am assuming the one your showing is not vintage?

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Fortunes Of War

Hi Jack-

     Thank you for your comments about the Japanese threads.  The Japanese actually used headbands of all kinds down through the ages in order to soak up the perspiration, no matter what they were doing.  Workers in the field wore them, shop keepers wore them, fishermen wore them too.  Virtually anyone, including those in the military/samurai, utilized them to keep the sweat off their faces and out of their eyes.  Similarly, many, many Japanese wear them today, whether they are working, exercising or simply doing kind of strenuous brain work behind a desk!  Below is a very old Japanese wood cut print done by the artist Yoshitoshi, in 1876.  It shows Nitta no Yoshisada, a former general of the Hojo army and supporter of Emperor Go-Daigo; note the headband he wears. 

     Your second question brings to mind a couple of other points: this type of kamikaze headband (WW2 vintage examples, not present day reproductions) have in the past, sold for some rather big money.  I remember years ago, collectors paying $250.00 and sometimes much more for them.  Why not?  Many people thought that because the kanji across the front said, "Divine Wind" it must have been worn by an actual kamikaze pilot!  Again, the fact is that these were worn by all kinds of Japanese people, doing all kinds of tasks, during the war.  In fact, some probably were worn by actual pilots or other members of the suicide squads.  If you want an authentic headband worn by an actual member of the Japanese Military Special Attack Units or suicide squads (more properly known as Kamikaze/Shinpu Tokubetsu Kogekitai), you will need some kind of provenance.  There are undoubtedly a variety of looks in authentic examples.  As for cost, the sky is probably the limit, no pun intended!

 

MikeB

 

 

Samurai and hachimaki (2).jpg

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Bob Hudson

So does the one I posted say "DEVINE WIND" ?  Anyone know what the small writing says?

thanks all...

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Fortunes Of War

Bob-

     The large characters say, "Divine Wind".  

 

MikeB

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Bob Hudson
On 2/22/2021 at 6:15 PM, Fortunes Of War said:

Bob-

     The large characters say, "Divine Wind".  

 

MikeB

Thanks for that.

 

Is the small writing typical? Would that be a name, or slogan, or? The kanji look like they were drawn with a felt tip pen.

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vintageproductions
On 2/22/2021 at 11:20 AM, Fortunes Of War said:

I just came across this "kamikaze" headband, offered for sale on a Japanese auction site.  The opening asking price is nearly $180.00 U.S., yikes!

 

MikeB

Endo hachimaki (2).jpg

You can still sometimes find these War Worker headbands in Japan if you look hard enough.

 

They sell in the US at around $350-400 and that is with them being identified as war worker headbands.

 

In all my travels to Japan, I have only been able to find one real one that was associated to a pilot. It was from a small museum that was closing, and it included all of the pilots personal items. It was sad because the museum owner didn't want to sell it to me, and I waited until the end of the show and went back to see if it was sold. As I walked up he was putting it all in a box, and said to my translator that this should stay in Japan, but I was the only one who showed any real interest. I made him a promise that if / when I sold it it would go to the "right" person.

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Fortunes Of War

Bob-

     Most examples that I see do not have the smaller characters written on them like this one; you usually see just the 2 large kanji characters for "Divine Wind" and then the longer line, down below, by Endo.  If there are additional characters, they would most probably either be screen printed, painted by brush in ink, or written in fountain pen. 

 

MikeB 

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Fortunes Of War

Bob Chatt-

     That is a very interesting story you posted about finding the kamikaze related pilot grouping at the show in Japan.  Do you have any images of the headband or related items that could be added to the thread?

 

MikeB 

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Fortunes Of War

Here is an example of a hachimaki that recently sold over in Japan.  It was worn by a Japanese pilot, whose unit members were part of one of the navy's suicide corps (designated as a kamikaze).  The seller also sold the pilot's float vest, and photo album that was packed full of photos of the pilot himself (see image), unit members and their aircraft, and unit designation/history.  The four characters say, "7 lives in dedication to the country".  Note too the cherry blossoms, embroidered on either side of the four kanji characters.  Service members were to offer their lives up to the emperor without hesitation, just as the blossoms fell from the cherry tree at their height of their beauty (at the height of their youth.)  The characters on the other end of the headband say something like, "Be the bow and arrow (weapon) of the emperor...." [as you take to the skies to defeat the enemy.]  Sorry, my translation isn't the best.

 

MikeB  

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Bob Hudson

Thanks for sharing that. For pieces with little or no provenance is there any way to date these? On the one I posted there is what appears to be a stain from one of the kanji characters bleeding onto the white cloth. Is that something anyone else has seen on these?

 

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Fortunes Of War

Bob-

     All kinds of stains are possible to see on these, as anyone could have worn them in a variety of situations at any time.  I can't tell you how you might date them.  Here is one currently offered in Japan that appears to have a combination of blood and other stains on it.  It is offered as a kamikaze headband (I am guessing because the characters say, Divine Wind).  I am not aware of any provenance on it....  Sorry for the poor resolution; I grabbed it off my computer screen.

 

MikeB

 

 

 

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Fortunes Of War

I thought I would include this image of how the red sun center of the hachimaki sometimes looked when they were made from blood.  These are quite interesting and infrequently seen.

 

MikeB

Blood Oath Flag to Wakami Yaozo From Wife-6.jpg

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Bob Hudson
On 2/24/2021 at 11:50 AM, Fortunes Of War said:

All kinds of stains are possible to see on these,

 

I figured out the stains on the one I posted: it's iron oxide black ink - Iron Gall Ink. You can see the rust-colored haloing on the edges of the Devine Wind kanji and one of the kanji left a rust colored mirror-image stain on the white cloth where they came in contact when it was folded up for probably a long time. 

 

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Fortunes Of War

That's a great assessment, Bob. I would agree with you and it can get worse. Over time, depending upon the formula of the ink, the salts in it sometimes have the ability to decay the silk fabric.  You see this more commonly on some old good luck flags, but it doesn't always occur. 

 

MikeB

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Mike, thank you for your thoughtful response to this topic.  

 

I was aware that such headbands were worn by a broader range of people within Japan, but I was not aware of the use of "Divine Wind" to apply to the war effort of the total community.  (I can't read kanji or katakana.)

 

It makes sense however.  Based on my limited understanding of Japanese culture, it is the achievements of the group that are celebrated as opposed to those of the individual.  This is true in other Asian cultures as well.  Many Westerners are not aware of this. 

 

As I write this, I am reminded of the scene in the movie Tora, Tora, Tora where Commander Genda is presented with such a headband that had been presented to him by his crew.  Assuming the movie is accurate on this point, this would have been well before kamikaze attacks were contemplated.

 

Thank you for posting. image.png

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gwb123-

     Thank you for your comments; it has been an interesting discussion.  The Japanese nation was "all in" during the war.  For the military, it was difficult to adopt the Western notion of decorations for heroism (they did, however, primarily in the form of the Golden Kite medal).  The Japanese military inculcated in, and assumed that's its fighting men would always take to heart the notion of "Japanese Fighting Spirit".  They believed their reason for ultimate victory would be because their military would fight with their last ounce of strength and drop of blood.  With everyone in the military and all of its citizens fighting in like manner, they believed that no one could defeat them.  As a side comment, it's interesting to note that near war's end, the bukoushou decoration was awarded to many individuals, for individual acts of heroism (a departure from earlier thinking.)  Overall, each Japanese person was seen as contributing a single droplet of water to the tsunami of military success, aided by the Diving Wind.

 

MikeB

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