I have recently had some thoughts about menpo and their effective use. I would really like to start a serious discussion about this topic, merging all our knowledge. So please feel free to comment and share your thoughts and information.
On all paintings and prints we see warriors wearing a hanbō or even nothing. So are we really sure that me-no-shita masks were ever been intended to be used on a battlefield? How comes they are always way bigger that the average Japanese face? My feeling is that their primary use was for armor display and they were used only during parades. Also, why there are so few older than Edo period? If intended to use, we would have many of them from the sengoku jidai...
Interesting topic! I think the construction of the menpo alone speaks against it readily being used in combat. When you have the menpo and kabuto strapped on, it´s very uncomfortable. It def hinders the breathing and makes communication very difficult. Imagine having it on during a long battle. The menpo was probably mostly used during parades and for armor-display. It def looks more intimidating with a menpo on your display compared to a hanbo.
Post by Dave Thatcher on Oct 30, 2014 14:47:16 GMT
Hanbo are too often overlooked by collectors. Early armours have them and they serve a functional purpose the secure the Kabuto-no-O. The wearer can shout, great and even eat and drink wearing one. It also provides protection for the throat. An item of the sengoku jindai thats worn for a reason.
Menpo give an armour life when displayed but are impractical when used. I feel they are very much a fashion item of the edo period.
I concur with Dave and Jan, but maybe there where a small segment for mempo on the battlefield, in the group that actually didn't need to fight in them and also needed to look impressive, some Damyos and senior retainers and generals? Just a thought, propably wrong....
I would agree with Dave. Having been involved in fifteent and sixteenth century european reenactment i favoured a mail standard and kettle hat or gorget and bergonet. Ventilation to the face is verry importent to your comfort. A bevor or visor reflects your body heat and breath making you feel hoter and sweatyer. You pant a lot in armour and free ventilation is importent because of this. Also a gust of wind in the face has a verry cooling effect. The final consideration is vision. Visors are good if you are lance running but for melee on foot or horse you need as mutch vision as you can get, especialy your peripheral vision. If you can`t see it comeing, you can`t stop it.
Here´s is my two pre-Edo hanbo. The first one has a deep patinated red urushi with a four lame tare. The odayori ore kugi is a bit smaller than on my other facemasks. Has a wide ase nagshi no ana. Simple yet functional with a "open" look.
The second one is very basic except from it´s devided tare. Four lames with rather narrow plates. Again with smaller than average odayori ore kugi. It has a wide look to it with shallow flat bottom end. The ase nagashi no ana is not as wide as on the first example. Has some kind of black color on the inside.
Of course not as flashy as a late edo Myochin menpo, but I bet it worked just fine on the battlefield.
Nice topic. As the menpo gives life to a displayed armor it also gives a scary look to the warrior on the battlefield. I am sure samurai used menpo as well on the battlefield. The scary look of the old lady mother in law has a psychological effect for sure! Practical? Thinking about breathing and fighting for your life.... no. But thats probably the reason why the nosepiece could be taken off. Further on... nice for parades as well. When hanbo? when menpo? Depands on your character. Do you want a scary suit you wear that. Do like practical.....etc. You are not scared and confident, take the hanbo or nothing and fight free. If you have no money you take whatever... Maybe the rich guys on the back wear menpo the most?
The extant screens and scrolls appearing to reveal, that the usage of menpo in these times were not so wide spread as assumed. Only a few soldiers depicted with some kind of face protection, ie menoshita-bo. Well, digging deeper through the books, it becomes more and more woolly.
For example, Kazuo Ida wrote.....
"....Armour masks as seen in battle paintings
The “Kawanakajima-kassen-zu byôbu” (川中島合戦図屏風, reference 33, picture 11) depicts an ordinary lower-ranking soldier wearing a skin-coloured menoshita-bô throwing his head back as he is hit in the side of his belly by the yari of a mounted Takeda warrior. The “Nagashino- kassen-byôbu” (長篠合戦屏風, reference 33) depicts both menoshita-bô and sômen. In the Nagashino screen of the Naruse family (成瀬, picture 12-•), we see Tokugawa Ieyasu on horseback and to the right his helmet bearer holding up the helmet of Ieyasu with an attached sômen. The helmet bearer of Oda Nobunaga in turn holds up a kara-jingasa helmet with a menoshita-bô. There exist several copies of this screen and the one in the collection of the Tokugawa Reimeikai (picture 12-•) shows Ieyasu ́s helmet with a menoshita-bô andNobunaga ́s helmet with a sômen. Another copy, which is preserved in the museum of the Tenshukaku of Ôsaka Castle faithfully follows the Naruse screen. In addition, the Tokugawa Reimeikai screen shows in one scene Honda Heihachirô Tadakatsu (本多平八郎忠勝, 1548- 1610) wearing a menoshita-bô (p. 13, p. 194). This detail is not found in the Naruse screen which means that it was added in the course of copying the original screen. Incidentally, the Tokugawa screen is the latest copy and dates to the late Edo period. The Naruse and the Tenshukaku screens are both works of the early Edo period. These screens show us that menoshita-bô were widely in use from the Sengoku to the Momoyama period and can also be seen as a reference for the use of sômen. Happuri and hanbô do not appear at all in these screens and so it can be assumed that they were no longer regarded as functional and thus no longer produced. However, it seems that at least hanbô were in use as there are – although in small quantities – pieces extant from that time. Menoshita-bô reached a peak during the Edo period, namely worn by warriors with no actual battlefield experience. They were added with embossing’s and various interpretations emerged with different facial expressions. The sômen which was not much in use before was also revived during the Edo period, although numerous works with their embossing’s offered more an ornamental than real battlefield character. In terms of quantity, the menoshita-bô was number one during the Edo period. Full sômen were not made that often and the old-fashioned and revival happuri was not made in large numbers either....."
Helmet of Oda Nobunaga Helmet of Tokugawa Ieyasu
A bit confusing for me .....or is here something "lost in translation"?
PS: Anybody here, who can provide pictures from the screens mentioned above?
I have a book with pictures of scrolls and found yet another version of this picture in it. Will see if I can scan it. Is kind of interesting to put these pictures next to each other. Not necessarily for the menpo discussion, but to see how certain subtle (and not subtle) things change. I wonder if anybody ever made a comparative study of these different versions of scrolls....
In it is also a pic of the one Jeff would like to enlarge but again another version. And yes, of all the books with scrolls I have (set of 5), only these pictures show up, except a picture of an armour shop where one is lacking a menpo, looks a bit like Dave actually... I also have a book or two with much older scrolls but doubt I will find any in that one...
I have images of some of these screens and I am not sure I see any somen. What I see are menpo on some form of padded head shape to support the helmet and mask. The images illustrated show Oda and Tokugawa arriving at Nagashino and being met by their officers. On the screen they are shown separated which I assume means they met at the battlefield. In both cases the officers greeting them are lined up on either side and both seem to have the same types of identifying flags and horo etc. Ian B
Is this an early picture of Richard Jones totting up the daily take? Ian B
HO HO HO...... READ IT AND WEEP! After scouring the earth for rare and interesing objects and spending weeks preparing for a fair, getting up at the crack of dawn, travelling 100's of miles, setting up, then standing for a further 12 hours just look at what I was counting.... Oh yes! Who,s laughing now? Fish head stew and tepid sake all round tonight! Yum yum! Could there be more to life than this? Richard