Military Review

Armor of the Land of the Rising Sun: The Beginning of Change


Samurai: on the left in haramaki-do armor, on the right in o-yory classic armor. Yamaguchi Busi, 1848 (Tokyo National Museum)

To forget about the heat, I’ll probably draw
Though snow on Fuji!

Armor and weapon samurai of japan. To begin with, we recall that all photographs under which there is no signature on the belonging of this exhibit to a particular museum belong to the Tokyo National Museum. So we will continue today to get acquainted with his collections.

Last time, we settled on the Japanese armor of the Nambokuto era (1336-1392). Which, however, did not bring peace to the country. The Kamakur shogunate made a serious mistake, allowing the local nobility to increase to a dangerous limit. The emperor, who had long dreamed of regaining power, made a bet on the dissatisfied, and great turmoil began in the country. Large daimyo landowners became almost independent of the shogunate’s power and were able to maintain entire armies. Samurai were no longer enough to serve in them, and they began to massively recruit peasants into their troops. And the peasants only needed this. Having learned how to use weapons, they began to organize one uprising after another: in 1428, 1441, 1447, 1451, 1457 and 1461. Peasant detachments even broke into the streets of Kyoto, and the government made concessions to them. And then the war began already between the clans - the Onin-Bummey war (1467-1477), and then it turned out that the old armor needed a number of improvements.

The era of Nambokutyo and what happened afterwards

Samurai did not take them off now for weeks and fought a lot, not as horsemen, but as foot soldiers. And their enemies clearly increased! They were just the armed peasants - asigaru ("light-footed"), albeit somewhat armed, but strong in numbers. Many of them fought with half-hounds, but used large swords - no-dati, with which they delivered terrible blows.

Genesis of samurai armor in the 1th-2th centuries From left to right: 3. Samurai in the traditional arms of the 4th century: he wears o-ryoy armor with one kote sleeve and simple suneate greaves without knee pads. XNUMX. Samurai beginning of the XIV century. His o-ёroy already has two sleeves of kote, and tate-ogee kneecaps have been added to his suneate; Nodov’s collar protects the neck, and a hambo half mask appears on his face. XNUMX. Samurai beginning of the XIV century. He wears maru-do-yoroy armor without breastplates, but with traditional leather trim; leather pants are sewn on the pants; on the face is a frightening mempo mask with the face of a long-nosed goblin tengu. XNUMX. Samurai XIV century. He wears armor to the maru without covering the shell with leather (that is, he already has to shoot from the bow infrequently), but with plates of armor o-yoy. The ends of the haidate legguard are tied behind the hips and under the knees in such a way that it seems as if it were wearing armor pants. Mask hoate or saru-bo ("monkey face") with a collar. And more and more often, the bow is no longer the weapon of the samurai, but the naginata (the literal translation is “a long blade”), a weapon that is very effective in fighting opponents with poorly protected armor

A real samurai prefers real records! Or not?

Need is the best engine of progress. AND история military affairs in Japan once again confirms this. After the Onin-Bummey war, the first armor appeared that met the new conditions of warfare. They began to be called Mogami-do (the name of the area where they first began to be produced), which differed from all previous ones in that their cuirass began to consist not of cords connected with cords, but of five or seven metal bands on the chest and on the back. They were also connected by lacing, but more rare, called sukage-odoshi. Large plates of kiritsuke-kozane and kiritsuke-ёyozane began to be used in armor, the upper part of which resembled a “fence” of separate kojzane and ёizane plates, but solid metal was already below these “cloves”! Naturally, the rich samurai at first despised these "deceptive armor", saying that we can also order hon kozane do - "armor from real small plates", but gradually the Mogami-do became a very popular type of defensive weaponry. It is clear that armor made according to old models cost much more! After all, Japan has always been a country of good old traditions!

Armor of the Land of the Rising Sun: The Beginning of Change

Mogami-haramaki armor and etтu-zunari-kabuto helmet with upper longitudinal plate extending beneath the superciliary. Royal Arsenal, Tower

Another transitional type from the old armor to the armor of modern times, which later became known as “tozei-gusoku”, that is, “modern armor”, turned out to be nuinobe-do. In it, large fake Iyozane plates were connected by the rare weaving of Sugake-Odoshi. Then the fantasy of the Japanese gunsmiths created completely unusual armor - dangage-do, in which there were small plates at the bottom of the cuirass, in the middle of the strip of fake plates, and at the top - two rows of plates of kiritsuke-kozane.

Mogami-do Transitional Armor Design

The first half of the XNUMXth century in the arms industry of Japan became a time of a kind of revolution related to the appearance of the Okegawa-do armor. In them, horizontally located plates were first joined not by cords, but by forging, which, however, led to the appearance of a large number of their varieties. For example, if the heads of the rivets connecting the stripes were visible, then it was the kakari-do armor.

Before us is just one such armor with stripes decorated with decorative rivets from the exposition of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (its other name is toji tokegawa-do). The kozane plates from which his o-sode shoulders are made are also clearly visible. The cuirass consists of eight horizontal stripes connected by decorative rivets. One of the features of this armor is its extremely rare color scheme on the lacing of kusazuri (skirt). Typically, the color of the lacing changes between rows, for example, from light on the belt to dark below, then this pattern is repeated on each of the segments of the skirt. Here, however, the colors change between the seven segments, starting on the right side, where the kusazuri segment is white, then it is red in front, then yellowish green and finally turns black. To create an impression of symmetry, the neck protector (yodare kake) duplicates the red lacing of the central element of the skirt, while the shoulder protector (o-sode) and neck protector on the helmet (sikoro) of the helmet are completely white, but have a red border along their lower rows of cords. Made by masters of the Bamen school. Belonged to the Okaba family

Rear view of this armor

"Modern armor" of the XVI-XIX centuries.

At the yokohagi-okegawa-do plate, the cuirasses were located horizontally, but at the tatehagi-okegawa-do, they were vertical. Yukinoshita-do, the armor by the name of the place where the famous gunsmith Miochin Hizae lived in his time (1573-1615), differed from all the others in a box-shaped form, as they consisted of solid forged sections connected by hinges, which was very convenient, since they were easy to disassemble and it was convenient to store them. Moreover, the gangs were already all-metal, including gyoe plates and small kohire shoulders attached to this armor also with hinges.

Sendai-do armor. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Sendai-do armor helmet - suji-kabuto ("helmet with ribs"). Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The simplest sandan before the XNUMXth century.

Especially these armor (which also had the names Kanto-do and Sendai-do) became popular in the Edo era, when the famous commander Date Masamune (1566-1636) put his entire army in Sendai-do. And he didn’t just put it on: all the armor was the same for the soldiers of higher and lower ranks, and differed only in the quality of the finish! The forged cuirass armor was called hotoke-do, but there were some very curious varieties of it. For example, the ne-do armor, or “Buddha's torso,” with a cuirass depicting a naked human torso, ascetic build, and even painted in flesh-colored, is known.

Armor of the Morochad-nougat-do. An excellent instance, covered with a thick layer of brick red varnish. Front view. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

But this armor is a rare example of the “new armor” of the early Edo era (XVII century) with a cuirass imitating a bare-chested torso. It is believed that such cuirasses were not only a means of somehow showing themselves on the battlefield, but were made with the aim of ... scaring the enemy or, at least, causing his surprise [/ center]

Armor of the Morochad-nougat-do. Back view. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The katahada-nougi-do cuirass ("half-naked carapace") was a combination of two styles: ny-do and tachi-do. It imitates the deed of a Buddhist monk: the ne-do plate on the right depicted the body, and on the left it was fastened with the usual carapace of sane plates imitating a monastic cassock. Edward Bryant, however, believed that in fact it was just a kimono torn in a fierce battle ...

This is what the armor with the katahada-nugi-do cuirass (of the Azuti-Momoyama era) looked like, which belonged to Kato Kiyomasa, one of Hideyoshi's military leaders in the Korean campaign of 1592. The helmet (yaro-kabuto) is sheathed with bear fur, but the whole forged part of the cuirass was made the form of the "exhausted body of a Buddhist ascetic monk"

Armor with cuirass hotoke-do from the Tokyo National Museum. The era of Sengoku. Supposedly belonged to Akechi Samanosuke. The helmet is decorated with horse ears and the moon. Breastplate of the European sample, but locally made. Decorated with a relief image of a small skull (on the right) and the Chinese character “10” or “sky” in the center. Front view

The same armor. Back view

Trade with the Portuguese allowed the Japanese to get acquainted with European armor. They did not fully borrow them, but they liked the cuirasses and helmets. Using them as a basis, the Japanese gunsmiths created a very distinctive type of armor, called the Nambo-do (“armor of the southern barbarians”), which, although they were modeled after European ones, but with all the traditional Japanese details. For example, the hatamune-do armor consisted of European cuirass with a stiffener, but had a “skirt” attached to it - kusazuri. And again, the surface of European armor was always varnished and painted. Moreover, the most popular colors were black and brown. Japanese masters did not recognize pure white metal!

Namban-gusoku, or namban-do gusoku, belonging to Sakikabar Yasumas (1548-1606)

The cuirass and helmet are imported, and for some reason a helmet of type cassette is rotated 180 degrees! This armor was given to him by Tokugawa Ieyasu just before the battle of Sekigahar (1600), and since then it was in the Sakakibar family until it entered the Tokyo National Museum. The armor had Japanese shikoro (neck protection hanging from the helmet) and hikimavashi (shikoro ornament) made of white yak hair. The iron cuirass has the same shape as the European cuirass, but both sides of the waist are trimmed to make it shorter. The helmet is complemented by a mask of hoate, kote (bracers), haidate (protection for the hips and knees) and suneate (protection of the lower leg) of local manufacture. The helmet on the left and right shows the family coat of arms of Sakakibar Genziguruma (varnish sprinkled with gold powder). However, since it is unlikely that these coats of arms were made before Ieyasu handed this armor over to Sakakibara Yasumase, they were probably placed on it later. Belongs to important cultural heritage sites.

Sakikabar Yasumas Armor Kote, Outside

Sakikabar Yasumas Armor Kote, Inner Side

Haidate Sakikabar Yasumas Armor

Suneate Sakikabar Yasumas Armor

This is how they were tied on the leg from behind (left view), and this way (right view) looked inside ...

History has preserved for us not only these armors themselves, but also their images. For example, Watanabe Moritsuna's samurai in armor with a European-style cuirass


1. Kure M. Samurai. Illustrated story. M .: AST / Astrel, 2007.
2. Turnbull S. Military History of Japan. M .: Eksmo, 2013.
3. Turnbull S. Symbolism of Japanese Samurai. M.: AST / Astrel, 2007.
4. Shpakovsky V. Atlas of samurai. M .: Rosman-Press, 2005.
5. Shpakovsky V. Samurai. The first complete encyclopedia. M .: E / Yauza, 2016.
6. Bryant E. Samurai. M .: AST / Astrel, 2005.
7. Nosov K. Armament of samurai. M .: AST / Polygon, 2003.

To be continued ...
Articles from this series:
Armor for the "poor samurai"
Plates and Cords: Armor of the Land of the Rising Sun
Armor History Land of the Rising Sun
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  1. Catfish
    Catfish 11 July 2020 04: 59
    Good morning friends! hi
    Hope to see everyone here soon. Thanks to Vyacheslav Olegovich for the new bridgehead for communication. smile
    Beauty, of course, is extraordinary, but practicality, as always, is in great doubt. But everything looks great!
    1. kalibr
      11 July 2020 06: 33
      About practicality will also be!
  2. Van 16
    Van 16 11 July 2020 05: 20
    Nice cycle, interesting. Thank!
    1. kalibr
      11 July 2020 08: 40
      Glad you liked it. It will be about weapons and about Japanese pirates, and even about all sorts of little things in the accessories of the sword. And it was only about tsuba ... In a word, everything that was not said in the articles of 2015 and with new illustrations, of course.
  3. tlauicol
    tlauicol 11 July 2020 05: 58
    bow evolution-armor evolution-halberd evolution. And so everywhere .. What would happen with the armor and weapons further, I wonder if it were not for the firearm?
    1. Catfish
      Catfish 11 July 2020 06: 15
      So after all, even before the firearm, the Pope forbade crossbows and anathematized. So everything is natural, not that, so different. hi
      1. 3x3zsave
        3x3zsave 11 July 2020 09: 07
        At one time, many things were forbidden and cursed, for example, flambergs. However, judging by the number of surviving samples, numerous users spat on the bans.
        1. Catfish
          Catfish 11 July 2020 09: 22
          Just think, the knife was banned, if there’s one thing to do with it - to whom the guts will be released, with a corkscrew or a screwdriver. laughing
          Hi Anton, how are you doing the glorious city of St. Petersburg? drinks
          1. 3x3zsave
            3x3zsave 11 July 2020 09: 28
            Uncle Kostya! hi
            "In rain we trust!"
            1. Catfish
              Catfish 11 July 2020 09: 40
              When I hear that somewhere it is raining, or even a cloudless sky, then this leads me to some thoughts. No.
              But in general - I envy, we again have a hell.
              1. 3x3zsave
                3x3zsave 11 July 2020 10: 04
                that somewhere it’s raining, or a completely cloudless sky,
                Some time ago he was interested in the history of the origin of both phrases. There is a strong opinion that their role in historical events is somewhat exaggerated.
                1. Catfish
                  Catfish 11 July 2020 10: 53
                  ... that their role in historical events is somewhat exaggerated.

                  But what are the events themselves!
                  1. 3x3zsave
                    3x3zsave 11 July 2020 14: 35
                    They are what they are and are no more! laughing
                    1. Catfish
                      Catfish 11 July 2020 15: 22
                      events are what they are and are no more!

                      Exactly! good
                      1. 3x3zsave
                        3x3zsave 11 July 2020 15: 32
                        Now I know who the Copenhagen monument to the Little Mermaid consistently destroyed! laughing
                      2. Catfish
                        Catfish 11 July 2020 15: 46
                        You were always clever ... I confess, there was a time

                        But Copenhagen is not our job. request
                      3. 3x3zsave
                        3x3zsave 11 July 2020 20: 05
                        You were always clever ...
                        Uncle Kostya, from what (my) years do you remember me? Hopefully not from the perinatal period? Or do I don’t know something ??? what belay laughing
                      4. Catfish
                        Catfish 11 July 2020 20: 23
                        Do not hint, only from puberty, did not give a single girl a pass. laughing good
                      5. 3x3zsave
                        3x3zsave 11 July 2020 21: 40
                        did not give any girl a pass.
                        You are mistaken. I always, with respect, let the lady go ahead. Especially if a lady wants to cross the street at a "red light", or swim behind the buoys.
              2. Korsar4
                Korsar4 11 July 2020 22: 37
                “Why are you torturing animals?” (from).
              3. 3x3zsave
                3x3zsave 11 July 2020 23: 11
                I will correct it.
                "Hey, little man, why are you tyrannizing the animal again ?!"
              4. Korsar4
                Korsar4 11 July 2020 23: 49
                There are different options.
                But the essence is one.
              5. 3x3zsave
                3x3zsave 12 July 2020 00: 30
                Exactly. "Do not torture an animal fig because of unsatisfied libido" laughing
  • Korsar4
    Korsar4 11 July 2020 15: 27
    You can prohibit or restrict anything.

    And then everything comes to the traditional “Business as usual”.
  • kalibr
    11 July 2020 06: 37
    Different types of crossbows would be perfect! From the Chinese would have come multiply charged infantry crossbows, the cavalry received compact ones with a metal bow, two per rider. Defenders of fortresses - "serfs", with loading in a machine with a crowbar. They would pierce through everything from 200 m.
    1. 3x3zsave
      3x3zsave 11 July 2020 08: 34
      multi-charged infantry crossbows,
      I remember a similar wunderwaffle in the movie "Vanhelsing" was present.
      Thank you, Vyacheslav Olegovich!
      1. kalibr
        11 July 2020 08: 38
        For a long time, the Chinese infantry was armed with 10-round crossbows with grip cocking. They did not have a very strong penetrating effect, but they worked perfectly against the cavalry of the Huns: "arrows fell like rain". The soldier was not even particularly taught to shoot at the target. He just raised it up and pressed ... It was impossible to break through such a "rain".
        1. 3x3zsave
          3x3zsave 11 July 2020 09: 00
          However, despite the two-thousand-year history, multi-charged crossbows remained a purely Chinese device.
          1. kalibr
            11 July 2020 09: 06
            Because nowhere else have the army been so crowded !!!
            1. 3x3zsave
              3x3zsave 11 July 2020 09: 14
              Well, yes.
              "Small tactical groups (1-5 million people) break through the enemy's first line of defense"
        2. hohol95
          hohol95 13 July 2020 09: 09
          The soldier was not even particularly taught to shoot at the target. I just raised it up and pressed ... It was impossible to break through such a "rain".

          They shot at the square!
          But against the Europeans, this has not helped much!
          Time was no longer right.
      2. Catfish
        Catfish 11 July 2020 09: 28
        "No, guys, I won't give you a machine gun ..."
  • 3x3zsave
    3x3zsave 11 July 2020 08: 28
    halberd evolution.
    If I am not mistaken, naginata is considered the evolution of a blade weapon, not a polearm, unlike a halberd.
    1. kalibr
      11 July 2020 08: 35
      You are not mistaken! This is a "sword", only on a very long oval handle.
    2. tlauicol
      tlauicol 11 July 2020 08: 48
      Yes you are right
      Quote: 3x3zsave
      halberd evolution.
      If I am not mistaken, naginata is considered the evolution of a blade weapon, not a polearm, unlike a halberd.
  • Free wind
    Free wind 11 July 2020 13: 23
    Japan in some regions has a climate like in England, but for some reason lambs were not bred. So that felt could be for padding under the armor. Felt itself gave protection. The Mongol had protection from felt with sewn on it. The Americans came up with body armor made of silk. The Japanese always made silk. but did not guess that he gives good protection.
    1. Lynx2000
      Lynx2000 12 July 2020 01: 57
      Maybe because sheep breeding was not developed. Sheep imported from China, did not take root until the 19th century. There were few goats, with her felt thin (felt). Probably samurai kebabs loved. Although it seems to be from the 7th century A.D. there was a ban on the killing and eating meat of animals: cows, horses, monkeys, poultry.
      In a humid Japanese climate, in an armor made of coarse felt, you will lose weight after an hour of movement of 5 kg.
      I am now wondering why the Japanese, possessing the technologies of making cotton and silk fabrics, paper, did not think of making armor similar to the Linothorax technology?
  • Dimon19661
    Dimon19661 12 July 2020 16: 22
    Was in many Japanese castles, armor look very pale compared to Europe, as well as the castles themselves.
    1. Private SA
      Private SA 12 July 2020 23: 55
      Well, the armor of Emperor Maximilian the First is really more solid
      look. And the royal castles of Chambord and Chenonceau and other times
      Francis the First and Henry the Second (remember the story of his death on
      knightly tournament?) is nicer than our European eye.
      But the question is: could he in them to a more mobile samurai with good
      a pair of blades to turn in a timely manner?
  • Private SA
    Private SA 13 July 2020 00: 11
    Quote: kalibr
    For a long time, the Chinese infantry was armed with 10-round crossbows with grip cocking. They did not have a very strong penetrating effect, but they worked perfectly against the cavalry of the Huns: "arrows fell like rain". The soldier was not even particularly taught to shoot at the target. He just raised it up and pressed ... It was impossible to break through such a "rain".

    However, the Giurgenis and the Mongols broke through. And through the Great Wall of China. And the European gunboats established their order.