A hachimaki (鉢巻) is a Japanese headband, usually made of red or white cloth, typically featuring a design of kanji at the front. It is worn as a symbol of effort or courage by the wearer, especially by those in the military, or to simply keep sweat off one's face.
The origin of the hachimaki is uncertain. The most common theory states that they originated as headbands worn by samurai, worn underneath armour to stop cuts from their helmets and to make wearing their helmets more comfortable.
Kamikaze pilots wore hachimaki before flying to their deaths.
A kamikaze pilot wearing a plain hachimaki
Another kamikaze pilot wearing a hachimaki decorated with the kanji jinrai (神雷, "god thunder")
A kamikaze pilot ties a hachimaki on his fellow pilot
Hachimaki are typically decorated with inspirational slogans, such as Nippon Ichi (日本一, "the best of Japan"). They are also typically decorated with the rising sun motif, usually in the center of the headband.
Some common slogans include:
The winner of a 2011 WTCC race wears a hachimaki
Author Yukio Mishima wearing a hachimaki moments before his death.