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.
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)