About Dragonfly

Now called Tombo (トンボ、蜻蛉) in Japanese, the dragonfly has a long history in Japan.

One of the oldest names of dragonfly is “Akitsu (秋津)”.

Akitsu-Shima (秋津島) or island of the dragonfly was named by emperor Jinmu (神武天皇) some 2,600 years ago.  While looking down on Yamato (大和) from atop a mountain, he observed that the land looked like a dragonfly licking its tail.

The dragonfly became an emblem of the country of Japan and was known also as Katsumushi (勝虫: the invincible insect or victory insect), never retreating.  It was a favorite symbol of strength among Japanese warriors.  During the 17th century Tokugawa Shogun period, dragonflies were used as a motif for decorating on warriors helmets.

Dragonflies are thought to bring good luck and are honored in literature, art and music in Japan.

 

Pictured:

Helmet adorned with a Dragonfly

  • Edo period, 17th century
  • Iron, gold and black lacquer on wood, gilt metal
  • Height: 26cm
  • Nishimura Museum, Yamaguchi Prefecture

(a photo from “SPECTACULAR HELMETS OF JAPAN, 16th-19th Century” published by Japan Society, New York)