Japanese armour

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O-yoroi, Kamakura period, 13th-14th century, National Treasure, Kasuga Grand Shrine. Armour red threads Kasuga shrine.jpg
Ō-yoroi , Kamakura period, 13th-14th century, National Treasure, Kasuga Grand Shrine.
A man wearing Samurai armor and jinbaori (sleeveless jacket) turns around, 2019

Scholars agree that Japanese armour first appeared in the 4th century, with the discovery of the cuirass and basic helmets in graves. [1] During the Heian period (794-1185), the unique Japanese samurai armour ō-yoroi and dō-maru appeared. [2] The Japanese cuirass evolved into the more familiar style of body armour worn by the samurai known as the dou or dō, with the use of leather straps (nerigawa), and lacquer for weatherproofing. Leather and/or iron scales were also used to construct samurai armours, with leather and eventually silk lace used to connect the individual scales (kozane) of these cuirasses. In the 16th century, Japan began trading with Europe, during what would become known as the Nanban trade. This was the first time matchlock muskets were imported, and as they became mass-produced domestically, samurai needed lighter and more protective armour. As a result, a new style of armour called tosei-gusoku (gusoku), which means modern armour, appeared. [3] When a united Japan entered the peaceful Edo period, samurai continued to use both plate and lamellar armour as a symbol of their status.

Contents

Ōyamazumi Shrine is known as a treasure house of Japanese armour. It houses 40% of Japanese armour that has been designated as a National treasure and an Important Cultural Property. [4] [5] Kasuga Grand Shrine is also known as a treasure house of valuable armour. [6]

History

Do-maru, Muromachi period, 15th century, Important Cultural Property, Tokyo National Museum Domaru with "Eurasian Jay" Lacing, Red at the Top.jpg
Dō-maru , Muromachi period, 15th century, Important Cultural Property, Tokyo National Museum
Gusoku Armour from the Kii Tokugawa Family. Edo period, 17th century. Minneapolis Institute of Art. In 2009, it sold for $602,500, the highest bid in Christie's history for a Japanese armour. Red-and-blue-laced Suit of Armor from the Kii Tokugawa Family.jpg
Gusoku Armour from the Kii Tokugawa Family. Edo period, 17th century. Minneapolis Institute of Art. In 2009, it sold for $602,500, the highest bid in Christie's history for a Japanese armour.
Gusoku Armour with a medieval revival style. Cloud dragon is drawn using maki-e technique. Edo period, 19th century, Tokyo Fuji Art Museum Yu Na Hu Mi Wei Yun Long Shi Hui Shan Dao Tou Tong Ce Er Mei Dong Ju Zu -Suit of Armor in Okegawado Gusoku Style with Todo Crest.jpg
Gusoku Armour with a medieval revival style. Cloud dragon is drawn using maki-e technique. Edo period, 19th century, Tokyo Fuji Art Museum

Earliest Japanese armour is thought to have evolved from the armour used in ancient China. [1] Cuirasses and helmets were manufactured in Japan as early as the 4th century CE. [1] Tankō, worn by foot soldiers and keikō, worn by horsemen were both pre-samurai types of early Japanese cuirass constructed from iron plates connected together by leather thongs. [8]

During the Heian period (794-1185), the unique Japanese samurai armour ō-yoroi and dō-maru appeared. Luxurious and heavily armed ō-yoroi were worn by senior mounted samurai, while the lighter dō-maru were worn by lower-class infantry samurai. [2] The Japanese cuirass evolved into the more familiar style of armour worn by the samurai known as the dou or dō. Japanese armour makers started to use leather (nerigawa), and lacquer was used to weatherproof the armour parts. Leather and or iron scales were used to construct samurai armour, with leather and eventually silk lace used to connect the individual scales (kozane) from which these cuirasses were now being made. [9] The artistic decoration of ō-yoroi reached its peak around the time of the Genpei War at the end of the Heian period. At the end of the 14th century, towards the end of the Kamakura period (1185-1333), even senior samurai often used lightweight dō-maru. [2]

In the Kamakura period, the most simple style of armor called hara-ate (腹当) appeared, which protected only the front of the torso and the sides of the abdomen, and was worn by lower-ranked fighter. [10] In the late Kamakura period, the haramaki (腹巻), which extended both ends of the hara-ate to the back, appeared. During the Nanbokuchō period (1336-1392), ashigaru (foot soldiers) and conscripted farmers joined the fighting on foot, increasing the demand for light, mobile, and inexpensive haramaki. Later, kabuto (helmets), men-yoroi (facial armor), and kote (gauntlet) were added to the haramaki, and even high-ranking samurai began to wear them. [11]

In the Muromachi period (1336-1573), the production process of armor became simplified, and mass production became possible at a lower cost and faster than before. The scales of traditional armor were connected to each other with cords in a style called kebiki odoshi (毛引縅), which was so dense that the entire surface of the scales was covered with the cords. In this period, on the other hand, a new method called sugake odoshi (素懸縅) was adopted, in which the scales of armor were sparsely connected to each other by two cords. The method of overlapping armor scales was also simplified. The traditional style of armor scales was the honkozane (本小札), in which half of the scales were overlapped and connected to each other. In this period, on the other hand, a new style of scales called iyozane (伊予札) was developed, in which one-fourth of the scales were overlapped and connected to each other. [11]

In the 16th century, Japan began trading with Europe during what would become known as the Nanban trade. Matchlock muskets were first introduced to Japan by the Portuguese in 1543. The matchlock muskets were named "Tanegashima" after the first island they arrived on. [12] Soon after, when Japanese swordsmiths began to mass-produce matchlock muskets in Japan, the war in Japan changed completely. The samurai needed armour that was lighter and more protective. In addition, large-scale battles required armor that could be mass-produced. As a result, a new style of armour called tosei-gusoku (gusoku), which means modern armour, appeared. Gusoku evolved from the dō-maru lineage. [3] Scales has changed to itazane (板札), which is made of relatively large iron plate or platy leather, and has improved its defenses. Itazane can also be said to replace a row of individual honkozane or iyozane with a single steel plate or platy of leather. Since the armour is no longer flexible, gusoku has changed its method to make it easier to put on and take off by opening and closing the armour with a hinge. The simplified structure of the armour makes it easier to manufacture, allowing armor makers to focus on design and increasing the variety of armour looks. For example, the iron plate was designed to imitate the chest of an old man, and dō-maru style gusoku was made by attaching colored threads to the surface of the iron plate. [3] [13] The type of gusoku, like the plate armour, in which the front and back dou are made from a single iron plate with a raised center and a V-shaped bottom, was called Nanban dou gusoku (Western type gusoku). [3] Bullet resistant armours were developed called tameshi gusoku ("bullet tested"), [14] allowing samurai to continue wearing their armour despite the use of firearms. [15]

Samurai in this period, especially high ranking samurai such as daimyo, owned a lot of armor. For example, it has been confirmed that Tokugawa Ieyasu owned dozens of armor, and they are now owned by Kunōzan Tōshō-gū, Nikkō Tōshō-gū, Kishū Tōshō-gū, Tokugawa Art Museum, The Tokugawa Museum, Tokyo National Museum, etc. [16] [17] [18]

The era of warfare called the Sengoku period (1467-1590) ended around 1600, when a united Japan entered the peaceful Edo period (1603-1868). Although samurai continued to use both plate and lamellar armour as a symbol of their status, traditional armours were no longer necessary for battles. For this reason, in the Edo period, armour in the style of the revival of the medieval period, incorporating gorgeous ō-yoroi and dō-maru designs, became popular. [19] During the Edo period lightweight, portable, and secret hidden armours became popular, since personal protection was still needed. Civil strife, duels, assassinations, and peasant revolts all required the use of armours such as the kusari katabira (chain armour jacket) and armoured sleeves, as well as other types of armour which could be worn under ordinary clothing. [20] Edo period samurai were in charge of internal security and would wear various types of kusari gusoku (chain armour) and shin and arm protection as well as forehead protectors ( hachi-gane ). [21]

Armour continued to be worn and used in Japan until the end of the samurai era (Meiji era) in the 1860s, with the last use of samurai armour happening in 1877 during the Satsuma Rebellion. [22]

Construction

Construction of samurai armour, Source Wendelin Boeheim Leipzig 1890:
1. Cuirass - do (Dong (Fo Dong ))
2. Fauld - kusazuri (Cao Zhe )
3. Cuisse - haidate (Pei Shun )
4. Poleyn - tateage (Li Ju )
5. Greaves - suneate (Ru Dang (Xiao Ru Dang ))
6. Sabaton - kogake (Jia Xuan )
7. Spaulders - sode (Xiu (Dang Shi Xiu ))
8. Vambrace - kote (Long Shou (Xiao Long Shou ))
9. Gauntlets - tekko (Shou Jia (Zhai Shou Jia ))
10. Helm - kabuto (Dou (Ri Gen Ye Xing Tou Xing Dou ))
11. Badge (helmet) - kasa-jirushi (Li Yin )
12. Forehead plate - mabisashi (Mei Bi )
13. Lame - fukikaeshi (Chui Fan )
14. Neck guard - shikoro (shikoro(Ri Gen Ye shikoro))
15. Crest (here: water buffalo horns) - wakidate (Li Wu (Shui Niu noXie Li ))
16. Crest (here: sun disk) - maedate (Li Wu (Ri Lun noQian Li ))
17. Faceplate - menpo or mempo (Mian Jia (Mu noXia Jia ))
18. Badge (shoulder) - sode-jirushi (Chui )
19. Bevor - yodare-kake (Jin Hui ) Japanese Armour Diagram by Wendelin Boeheim.jpg
Construction of samurai armour, Source Wendelin Boeheim Leipzig 1890:
1. Cuirass - dō (胴(仏胴))
2. Fauld - kusazuri (草摺)
3. Cuisse - haidate (佩楯)
4. Poleyn - tateage (立挙)
5. Greaves - suneate (臑当(篠臑当))
6. Sabaton - kōgake (甲懸)
7. Spaulders - sode (袖(当世袖))
8. Vambrace - kote (籠手(篠籠手))
9. Gauntlets - tekkō (手甲(摘手甲))
10. Helm - kabuto (兜(日根野形頭形兜))
11. Badge (helmet) - kasa-jirushi (笠印)
12. Forehead plate - mabisashi (眉庇)
13. Lame - fukikaeshi (吹返)
14. Neck guard - shikoro (しころ(日根野しころ))
15. Crest (here: water buffalo horns) - wakidate (立物(水牛の脇立))
16. Crest (here: sun disk) - maedate (立物(日輪の前立))
17. Faceplate - menpō or mempō (面頬(目の下頬))
18. Badge (shoulder) - sode-jirushi (垂)
19. Bevor - yodare-kake (襟廻)

Japanese armour was generally constructed from many small iron (tetsu) and/or leather (nerigawa) scales (kozane) and/or plates (ita-mono), connected to each other by rivets and macramé cords (odoshi) made from leather and/or braided silk, and/or chain armour (kusari). Noble families had silk cords made in specific patterns and colors of silk thread. Many of these cords were constructed of well over 100 strands of silk. Making these special silk cords could take many months of steady work, just to complete enough for one suit of armour. These armour plates were usually attached to a cloth or leather backing. Japanese armour was designed to be as lightweight as possible as the samurai had many tasks including riding a horse and archery in addition to swordsmanship. The armour was usually brightly lacquered to protect against the harsh Japanese climate. Chain armour (kusari) was also used to construct individual armour pieces and full suits of kusari were even used. [23]

Individual armour parts

The itazane-structured dou (cuirass), the quirky designs of kabuto (helmet) and mengu (face guard), are typical features of the gusoku armour. Azuchi-Momoyama period, 16th-17th century, Suntory Museum of Art Zhu Qi Tu Shi Gua Zha Gan Mi Su Xuan Wei Ju Zu 2.jpg
The itazane-structured dou (cuirass), the quirky designs of kabuto (helmet) and mengu (face guard), are typical features of the gusoku armour. Azuchi–Momoyama period, 16th-17th century, Suntory Museum of Art

A full suit of traditional Samurai armour could include the following items:

Auxiliary armours

Clothing worn with Japanese armour

This is a replica of jinbaori
with a Mount Fuji design that was worn by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in the 16th century. early-mid-19th century, Metropolitan Museum of Art Surcoat (Jinbaori) MET DP701232.jpg
This is a replica of jinbaori with a Mount Fuji design that was worn by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in the 16th century. early–mid-19th century, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Auxiliary items worn with Japanese armour

Types

Pre-samurai armour

Kozane-gusoku

Kozane dou (dō) gusoku , are samurai armours with a lamellar cuirass constructed from individual scales (kozane), old fashioned armours used before the introduction of firearms in Japanese warfare (pre-Sengoku styles). [24] [25]

  • Ō-yoroi, old style dou (dō) for mounted samurai, constructed with hon kozane (small individual scales).
  • Dō-maru, old style dou (dō) that opened in the back, constructed with hon kozane (small individual scales), later period haramaki dou (dō) were made with armour plates.
  • Hon kozane dou (dō) (small individual scales)
  • Hon-iyozane dou (dō) or Nuinobe dou (dō) (large individual scales).

Tosei-gusoku

Tosei dou (dō) gusoku the so-called "modern armours" made from iron plates (ita-mono) [26] instead of individual scales (kozane). Tosei-gusoku became prominent starting in the 1500s due to the advent of fire arms, new fighting tactics and the need for additional protection. [13] [27]

  • Okegawa Dou (dō) gusoku - (tub-sided), refers to the tub-like shape of the dou (dō). There are two types of okegawa dou (dō): yokohagi (horizontal lames), and tatehagi (vertical lames).
  • Hishinui dou (dō) or Hishi-toji dou (dō) - chest armours with rows of prominent cross knots, usually an okegawa dou (dō).
  • Munemenui dou (dō) or Unamenui dou (dō) - chest armours with a running stitch that goes horizontally across the surface of the dou (dō). This stitch of lacing runs along the surface of the lame looking like a dotted line paralleling the top.
  • Dangae dou (dō) gusoku - meaning "step-changing", a combination of two or more styles.
  • Hotoke dou (dō) gusoku - chest armour which is smooth and shows no signs of lames.
  • Nio dou (dō) - embossed to resemble the emaciated torso of a starving monk or old man.
  • Katahada-nugi dou (dō) - embossed to resemble a half-naked torso.
  • Yukinoshita or Sendai dou (dō) - five plate, four hinge (go-mai) chest armour in the sendai or yukinoshita style.
  • Hatomune dou (dō) gusoku - (pigeon-breast chest armour or cuirass) were inspired by European peascod breastplate armour. Hatomune dou (dō) have a sharp central ridge running vertically down the front.
  • Uchidashi dou (dō) gusoku - Embossed or hammered out relief on the front.
  • Nanban dou (dō) gusoku — Armour made on the base of late European armour
  • Mōgami dou (dō) - five-plate, four hinge (go mai) chest armours with solid lames which are laced with sugake odoshi instead of being riveted.

Other types

Individual samurai armor parts

Rating of Japanese armors

At present, by the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties, important armors of high historical value are designated as Important Cultural Properties (Jūyō Bunkazai, 重要文化財), and special armors among them are designated as National Treasures (Kokuhō, 国宝). The armors designated as cultural properties based on the law of 1930, which was already abolished, have the rank next to Important Cultural Properties as Important Art Object (Jūyō Bijutsuhin, 重要美術品). In addition, The Association for the Research and Preservation of Japanese Helmets and Armor (ja:日本甲冑武具研究保存会, Nihon Katchu Bugu Kenkyu Hozon Kai), a general incorporated association, rates high-value armors in five grades. In order of rank, they are, from highest to lowest, Juyo Bunka Shiryo (重要文化資料, Important cultural article), Koshu Tokubetsu Kicho Shiryo (甲種特別貴重資料, Especially precious article first grade), Tokubetsu Kicho Shiryo (特別貴重資料, Especially precious article.), Kicho Shiryo (貴重資料, Precious article), Hozon Shiryo (保存資料, Article worth preserving). [30]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chain mail</span> Personal armour of metal links

Chain mail is a type of armour consisting of small metal rings linked together in a pattern to form a mesh. It was in common military use between the 3rd century BC and the 16th century AD in Europe, and longer in Asia and North Africa. A coat of this armour is often called a hauberk, and sometimes a byrnie.

<i>Ashigaru</i>

Ashigaru were infantry employed by the samurai class of feudal Japan. The first known reference to ashigaru was in the 14th century, but it was during the Ashikaga shogunate that the use of ashigaru became prevalent by various warring factions.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Plate armour</span> Body armour consisting of shaped metal plates that were fitted together

Plate armour is a historical type of personal body armour made from bronze, iron, or steel plates, culminating in the iconic suit of armour entirely encasing the wearer. Full plate steel armour developed in Europe during the Late Middle Ages, especially in the context of the Hundred Years' War, from the coat of plates worn over mail suits during the 14th century.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lamellar armour</span> Armour made of overlapping scales, without a solid backing

Lamellar armour is a type of body armour, made from small rectangular plates of iron or steel, leather (rawhide), or bronze laced into horizontal rows. Lamellar armour was used over a wide range of time periods in Central Asia, Eastern Asia, Western Asia, and Eastern Europe. The earliest evidence for lamellar armour comes from sculpted artwork of the Neo-Assyrian Empire in the Near East.

<i>Kabuto</i> Japanese combat helmet

Kabuto is a type of helmet first used by ancient Japanese warriors which, in later periods, became an important part of the traditional Japanese armour worn by the samurai class and their retainers in feudal Japan.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Brigandine</span> Armoured sleeveless jackets used by infantry in the Middle Ages

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Scale armour</span> Type of protective gear made from small, overlapping plates of metal or similar durable material

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<i>Ō-yoroi</i>

The ō-yoroi (大鎧) is a prominent example of early Japanese armor worn by the samurai class of feudal Japan. The term ō-yoroi means "great armor."

<i>Dō-maru</i>

Dō-maru (胴丸), or "body wrap", was a type of chest armour worn by the samurai class of feudal Japan. Dō-maru first started to appear in the 11th century as an armour for lesser samurai and retainers. Like the ō-yoroi style it became more common in the Genpei War at the end of the 12th century.

<i>Men-yoroi</i> Facial armour worn by Japanese samurai

Men-yoroi (面鎧), also called menpō (面頬) or mengu (面具), are various types of facial armour that were worn by the samurai class and their retainers in feudal Japan. These include the sōmen, menpō, hanbō or hanpō, and happuri.

<i>Sangu</i> (armour)

Sangu is the term for the three armour components that protected the extremities of the samurai class of feudal Japan.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Auxiliary armour (Japan)</span>

Auxiliary armour in a set of Japanese armour are optional pieces worn by the samurai class of feudal Japan in addition to the traditional six armour components.

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<i>Kikko</i> (Japanese armour)

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Laminar armour</span>

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<i>Tatami</i> (Japanese armour)

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<i>Dō</i> (armour) Japanese armour for the torso

or dou is one of the major components of Japanese armour worn by the samurai class and foot soldiers (ashigaru) of feudal Japan.

<i>Kusari</i> (Japanese mail armour)

Kusari gusoku (鎖具足) is the Japanese term for mail armour. Kusari is a type of armour used by the samurai class and their retainers in feudal Japan. When the word kusari is used in conjunction with an armoured item it usually means that the kusari makes up the majority of the armour defence.

<i>Karuta</i> (armour)

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