Japanese IJA “Cherry Blossom”


General Information: The Japanese “Cherry Blossom” helmet was what the Japanese soldiers wore when they invaded China in 1931. It was an improvement over the very limited production earlier model which is referred to by collectors as the “Star Vent” or “Model 1918” helmet, although it apparently never had an official designation. The earlier helmet had ventilation provided by a series of small holes drilled through the top of the helmet in the form of a star. On the newer model the shape was modified and the vent changed to a single hole topped by a cap in the form of a cherry blossom, hence the collector term for this helmet.

The Cherry Blossom helmet was approved in an April 1, 1922 dated Imperial Japanese Army document “Regarding the provisional establishment of Head Armor Type.” It was officially designated “Provisional Standard Head Armor” and was referred to by the simple name “kabuto” or “head armor.”[1] This was the same name used for Samurai headgear, so it harkens back to an earlier period.

Because of the date of formal approval of this helmet type, the Cherry Blossom is sometimes referred to by collectors as the Model 1922. Some also refer to this helmet type as the Model 1918 Second Model, or Type Two. [2]

The Cherry Blossom helmet liners had three leather pads attached to a leather band like the German Model 1916 helmets. The are some subtle design differences between the M22 and Type 90 liners, the most readily noticeable being that the liner pads on the former were made of three pieces of leather versus one piece on the latter. The chinstraps were made with webbing material much like the Type 90s, but with a “Y” shaped construction that fastened to two pairs of loops. The M22s were used by both Army and Navy.

At the Show of Shows militaria shows in Louisville, Kentucky I used to make a point of spending time with late, renowned authority on Japanese helmets, John Egger. John was always gracious and willing to share his extensive knowledge with collectors like myself. Given that there are surprisingly few reference materials on the subject of Japanese helmets, much of what I have learned on the subject came from these informal seminars at the SoS. John told me that in his entire collecting career he had personally examined only a dozen or so Cherry Blossom helmets.  (I think I am remembering this correctly.) They are exceedingly rare. He also told me that at some point Japanese army stocks of this helmet were transferred to the navy. Following the transfer, they were refitted with navy badges and generally repainted, typically grey. This is likely the reason that surviving examples of the army versions of the helmet are less common than navy versions.

The total number of Cherry Blossom helmets transferred from the army to the navy is unknown, but Nick Komiya in his pioneering research from Japanese archives found documentation about Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) material that was transferred to the Imperial Japanese Navy’s (IJN) Naval Landing Forces at the time of the First Shanghai Incident in 1932. This was to address a sudden shortage of weapons and material caused by the conflict. Included in these transfers were 1,700 Cherry Blossom helmets.1

Displayed Example: I got this in a trade with a Canadian collector friend. He got an Imperial German officer’s Garde du Corps helmet with parade eagle that had been a centerpiece of my father’s collection. I got this helmet, an Italian M42 paratrooper helmet, a Latvian/German M17 and an Italian M31. Fair trade? It is complete but for missing liner cushions. The kanji script on the back translates to the family name “Yamamoto” – same as the architect of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Cool, no?

John Egger told me that star that is normally seen on the Cherry Blossom helmets differs from that on the Type 90s; the two “arms” of the star tilt downward at their points whereas the arms on the stars on the Type 90s form a continuous flat line on their upper sections. The star on this helmet is the later type, but perfectly original IMHO.

Collector Notes: The Japanese Cherry Blossom helmet is one of the hardest to find helmet types of the Second World War. When they hit the market, which is not often, they are expensive. There are some high-quality, inexpensive reproductions made by the Nakata company in Japan. These have most of the authentic features but lack the correct kind of leather and the pads are cut from one piece not made of three pieces like the originals. The army stars are the less-typical, latter type, not earlier type. The finish on the repros is very smooth and lacks the manufacturing defects that were a feature of the originals. I have not seen the reproductions misrepresented as originals, but I am sure there are people who are doing this.

* Citation being sought

[1] Komiya, Nick. “The 1922 Model Helmet, Cherry Blossom.” Wehrmacht Awards. November 12, 2011. Accessed November 11, 2022.

[2] Holub, Jareth. “Early Japanese Helmets.” German Helmet Walhalla. May 31, 2010.  Post #10. https://www.ghw2.com/topic/21538-early-japanese-steel-helmets/ Accessed May 10, 2022.

Published by maplecreekmilitaria

I am a collector of military headgear from 1915-1945

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