Kabutowari – Helmet Crusher Fact or Fiction

Kabutowari is known as a helmet or skull breaker. It is also referred to as hachiwari. This is a knife shape weapon that resembles a jitte. Kabutowari is a sidearm of the Samurai class of feudal Japan.

This knife-like weapon is endowed with mythical powers that can break open a helmet or kabutowari hence the name given to it. Basically, a helmet bowl is made of steel or iron plates fastened together on the sides.

It has a thick grommet and a metal strip protects the bottom of the helmet. It is puzzling how having this name is responsible for the legend behind the ability to break a helmet.

Various stories recorded and not state that there were helmet splitting tests dating as early as the 12th century and up to the present.

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However, no matter what tests were made there was no way to be able to cut any helmet in half using just a sword alone. There was however a tale from the 1600s that tells of a swordsmith who laid a sheet of wet rice paper over the helmet before inviting someone to hit this with the sword that he made.

The blade was said to cut through. This one was the only story to be able to refer to a sword that is capable of damaging a helmet.

Battlefield Ready

Kabutowari was designed to be used during battles. Since it can damage helmets but, breaking it into two when the helmet is made of durable material seems only fiction.

This weapon was designed making the tip sharp enough to pry joints in the armor. It looks like a heavier version in jitte. Kabutowari has a hook and curved blade to distinguish this from similar weapons.

There are two kinds of Kabutowari and these are:

  • Dirk type
  • Blunt iron truncheon that is shaped like a hachiwari. Sometimes the said weapon is mounted with a tsuka handle resembling the style of a Japanese sword
Samuraiantiqueworld [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Modern Kabutowari

From 1950 there are decent swordsmiths of good reputation that can still produce Kabutowari like of old. Some of the famous ones are like Mr. Kanayama-san who was a blacksmith from Tokyo.

Some of his best works were those from the 1940s through the 1950s. This only proves that there are still collectors of such kind of old Japanese weapons. Since swordsmith is best to learn from previously experienced swordsmith of old.

It would be safe to say that the new generations were trained by their fathers or grandfathers to carry on this legacy. Some of the modern makers have even gained a reputation for being good at making specific kinds of weapons.

Some of the once hidden weapons of long ago have been given their time to shine. From these weapons, the new generation found how warriors of long ago were able to defend their country from enemies; both from inside and out of their country.

This art will only die once nobody buys or collects weapons like this. As long as there are individuals who are interested to learn about old Japan, these weapons will remain not just in the not so distant memories of the past.

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