This is a special study of Japanese tropical helmets by Nick Komiya, and is presented in four parts.
1887-1911 Colonial Predecessors of the Army Sun Helmet
Initially a trademark of the British and French colonial look, the wearing of pith helmets spread worldwide from the late 19th to the early 20th centuries. However, despite of this worldwide fad, Japan was slow in coming to see any need for such gear. That was because being a late comer to the game of Imperialism, Japan did not hold any tropical colonies.
But even so, the well-travelled Japanese Navy must have felt obliged to match the colonial style dress code when making port calls at tropical colonies of the European empires. Thus the Imperial Japanese Navy introduced a sun helmet already in 1887, nearly 40 years ahead of the army. Continue reading →
MilitarySunHelmets.com presents a very special article by author Nick Komiya on the development and evolution of the Japanese sun helmet. We thank Nick for allowing us to republish this detailed study on the Japanese tropical helmets. This was originally published on the War Relics Forum.
In my past research on helmet covers, I came across quite a few documents discussing sun helmets, as they were often tested together in the same tropical test sessions in Taiwan. So when a recent question popped up about an early model sun helmet, I had a chance to review my files and thought I could have the whole picture of sun helmet development with only a little more digging for missing links. I was actually finishing a new complete history of the IJA’s pay book, but due to the lack of one early sample to study and confirm a couple of details, I had to shelve the project for later completion and was in search of a handy project instead. Continue reading →
With the fall of Hong Kong on December 25, 1941 and Singapore on February 15, 1942 the British suffered two of its greatest setbacks in the Far East during World War II, with the latter being described by Prime Minister Winston Churchill as the “worst disaster” in British history.
Some 80,000 men were captured at Singapore and untold equipment with it. Today it is possible to encounter British sun helmets (and even steel helmets) that were possibly captured by the Japanese in either Hong Kong, Singapore or in the later invasion of India. However, as it is all too easy to add a Japanese cap star to a helmet these should be viewed with suspicion at the very least. One has turned up that does have all the right signs that indicate that it is likely the “real deal.” Continue reading →
The classic Japanese “Safari” style helmet (collection of Jareth Holub)
One of the great misconceptions of Japanese tropical headgear of the Second World War is that the pattern known to collectors as “English,” “safari” or “European” was in fact produced outside of Japan. This is likely based on the fact that the helmets are similar in shape externally to the various Indian pattern helmets but also because the maker labels inside are in English. Continue reading →
The Japanese army’s advance on Singapore in late 1941/early 1942 – the khaki uniforms were well suited to the climate
While the European powers utilized khaki during the scramble for Africa and in the final decades of the age of imperialism, it was used in the Pacific as well – by both the United States and the Empire of Japan. The former followed British and European patterns beginning towards the end of the 19th century, while the latter adopted it as it went to war with a major European power at the beginning of the 20th century. Continue reading →
When thinking of a Japanese helmet box one probably has an image of a lacquered box. The concept of “Japanning” dates to the 17th century when Europeans would imitate Asian lacquerwork. Ironically much of the lacquering was actually not Japanese in origin, but rather Chinese. However the Japanese version – called urushi – did remain popular through the 19th- and 20th- centuries. So when one things of a Japanese box for a helmet it again like conjures the image of such a box. During the 1930s and into the early 1940s it wasn’t such a lacquered box that one might use for transporting a sun helmet. It was more likely a cardboard box. Continue reading →