Historically accurate replicas of samurai helmets and armour will soon be coming to vending machines at castles around the country.
Capsule toy vending machines, or gachapon, are filled with all sorts of goodies. From girls wrapped up in sushi to mini folding chairs and tiny coin lockers, you never know what you might find inside one of the plastic modules.
This month, toy and hobby manufacturer Bandai will be miniaturising some of Japan’s most famous military commanders for the toy vending machine market, with a focus on striking warrior helmets and armour. There are four warriors to collect, each with a special gold version, ready to take pride of place on your desk at work or home.
Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543–1616) was a powerful and influential warrior who, in 1603, established the Tokugawa Shogunate, which would rule the country for more than 250 years following the end of the Sengoku Jidai, or Warring States Period of Japan ( c. 1467–c. 1603). The armour of the Tokugawa Family is viewed as “auspicious armour”, due to Ieyasu’s victory in the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, so if you’re looking for good luck in studies or in business, this is the capsule toy you’re after.
Kuroda Nagamasa (1568–1623) was a prominent military commander known for his distinctive kabuto (helmet), which featured a pair of imposing water buffalo horns. The horned helmet was used as a symbol of reconciliation when Kuroda exchanged it with the helmet of the Lord of the Hiroshima Domain, Fukushima Masanori (c.1561–1624), as a testimony of their friendship after battle. The helmet was returned to the Kuroda family in 1844.
Sanada Yukimura (1567–1615) is enjoying renewed interest in Japan at the moment as the leading character in the 2016 NHK year-long TV drama Sanada Maru. As the leading general on the defending side of the Siege of Osaka, Yukimura’s legend has been retold over the centuries, with the military leader known as the “Crimson Demon of War”, due to his distinctive red armour. His helmet has hand-carved wooden antlers and six Kan’ei Tsuho, copper coins once used for currency, which are also the symbol of the Sanada clan.
Katō Kiyomasa (1561–1611) is known for building Kumamoto Castle, one of Japan’s most esteemed fortresses. Known as a ruthless fighter, Kiyomasa’s battle armour is distinctive, both in its shades of colour and its large bullseye, which is the Katō family crest. Modelled on the eboshi, traditional headdress worn by Shinto Priests, the extra tall naga eboshi helmet shown here was reserved for only top-ranking samurai.
The seven to eight-centimetre- (2.8–3.1 inch-) tall figures will be available for 400 yen (US$3.55) from 18 March at souvenir store gachapon capsule toy vending machines at: Osaka Castle, Kumamoto Castle, Himeji Castle, Hikone Castle, Nijo Castle and Ueda Castle.