A hachimaki (鉢巻, "helmet-scarf") is a stylized headband (bandana) in Japanese culture, usually made of red or white cloth, worn as a symbol of perseverance, effort, and/or courage by the wearer. These are worn on many occasions, for example, by sports spectators, by women giving birth, students in cram school, office workers, expert tradesmen taking pride in their work, bōsōzoku (teen biker gangs) and even rioters.
These narrow strips of fabric are generally decorated with inspirational slogans, like "日本一" (Nippon Ichi, "the best of Japan" or "Japan's best"), but most typically with the rising sun motif.
The historical origin of hachimaki is uncertain. One theory links the cloth to those worn by early religious ascetics. Another theory states that they originated in headbands worn by samurai that kept their helmets on, to absorb perspiration, and keep hair out of their eyes. This is similar to the purpose of the European cloth arming cap.
Perhaps the most infamous usage of the hachimaki was by the kamikaze pilots toward the end of World War II. Kamikaze pilots would frequently don a hachimaki, usually with the kanji "神風" ("Kamikaze"), before flying to their deaths.
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