After Victory, Tighten Your Helmet Cords

(between 1937 and 1941)

IHL Cat. #2687

1938 photograph of Japanese troops atop

walled city in China


A color lithograph patriotic fan sample print, likely created between 1937 and 1941 during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945)*, picturing Kintarō, the legendary Golden Boy of superhuman strength, holding a 16th century Hōjō clan warrior helmet. In the background a lone sentry is seen on the wall of a captured Chinese city. 

The print carries the sample catalog number そ印 參百八拾號 (so in sanbyaku hachiyon gō [384]). These numbered fan prints (uchiwa-e 団扇絵) were gathered into a sample book (uchiwa mihonchō 団扇見本帳, or uchiwa gachō 団扇画帖.) to show wholesale customers the range of available designs.

The saying "After victory, tighten your helmet cords" (勝ち兜の緒を締めよ), printed across the top of this print, is associated with the Sengoku-era warlord Hōjō Ujitsuna 北条氏綱 (1487-1541). The saying became famous when it was quoted in December 1905 by Admiral Tōgō Heihachirō 东乡平八郎 (1848-1934) at the Dissolution Ceremony of the Combined Fleet after the end of the Russo-Japanese War.[1] The saying is a warning to remain vigilant and prepared even after winning a battle against your enemy.

Note: Transcriptions and translations are my own unless otherwise noted.

* Referred to in China as the "War of Resistance Against Japan." 

[1] Admiral Togo's admonition : tighten your helmet strings in the hour of victory ; President Theodore Roosevelt's message to U.S. Navy after the Russo-Japanese War / Douglass Hubbard and Nobuo Fukuchi, editors, Yayoi Seki Beard, translator, published by the Admiral Nimitz Foundation, 1990.

Print Details