Myōchin Nobuie



Mei (signed): Eiroku gonen jūgatsu Myōchin Nobuie + kaō

(永禄五年十月明珎信家「花押」, “tenth month of Eiroku five [1562]”)

(with inscription from the Heart Sutra on the back side)

Period: End Muromachi (1562)

N.K.B.K.H.K. Kōshu Tokubetsu Kichō Shiryō Certification (Special Extraordinary Work Grade A)

Exhibited: Louisville KY, The Frazier History Museum, “Samurai, The Flowering of Japan” 2012.

Published: Andrew Mancabelli and David Pepper, Samurai, The Flowering of Japan, Louisville KY, p. 27.

With no restorations.

With a wood-stand and kiri box.

Change currency > ¥ £ $


Here we have an excellently forged russet-iron Sujibachi Kabuto,

A rare unaltered kabuto (helmet) By Myochin Nobuie, dated 1562.

Constructed of 32 heavy iron plates, with russet lacquer finish, the mabisashi lacquered black, the maedate a simple gilt-brass “u”-shaped crest, the bowl fitted with a threelame shikoro of black-lacquered iron plates in kiritsuke iyozane style, the fukigaeshi and shikoro trimmed with a gilt-copper fukurin, fitted with inner chain-mail shikoro, a feature typically seen among northern samurai during the Sengoku (Warring States) period, signed on the interior of the bowl Myōchin Nobuie saku with kao and dated Eiroku mizunoe inu gonen jugatsu no hi (1562.10).

This helmet, though from rather late in the Muromachi period has its original shikoro (neck guard) and metal fittings. Only a handful of helmets from the Muromachi period have come down to us without having been altered-most of them in the collections of Shinto shrines. This helmet is complete with its original, gilt-brass maedate (helmet ornament). Gilding brass was common in the late-Muromachi period but maedate from this period are rare.

The former traced their origin back to the Prime Minister of the Empress Jingō, who is recorded to have invaded Korea at the beginning of the 3rd century; but they only became strictly historical with Munesuke, who is said to have been given the family name of Myōchin (妙珍) by Emperor Konoye about the middle of the 12th century, the family name before this being Masuda. Munesuke is the maker of the helmet crown of the Akita armour referred to above.

The 15th and 16th centuries are marked by the rise to prominence of the great families of hereditary armourers, chief among whom are the Myōchin. This school, above all others, gained fame as metalworkers of the highest order, receiving the patronage of the wealthiest in the land. Kunimichi (1624-43), 21st Master in the genealogy, began to produce embossed helmets and cuirasses of a very high standard and his example led many of his contemporaries to follow suit. He was the first Myōchin to move from Kyōto to the new capital of Edo around 1670.

In Orikasa’s publication “Studies on Arms and Armour” he shows that the Myōchin family’s move from Edo to Kaga was quite late. The first was a Myōchin Muneyoshi who established himself in Kanazawa during the Kansei period (1789-1801). His pupil, Munetoshi, became official armourer in 1805, dying in 1837. The post was then taken by Muneyoshi in 1838. Another pupil of Muneyoshi was Munehide who died in 1851 followed by Munetaka, Munenobu, Munenaga and Munemitsu. Orikasa also lists the stipends of some of these showing they were on the Han’s payroll. Muneyoshi, being an official armourer, received rice to support seven people, others such as Munehisa only sufficient for two people.

This family existed until the last days of the Tokugawa (end of 19th century).