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The Armor of the Samurai


The Samurai were known for many things. Not the least of which their culture-leading fashion sense. Much of this is due to their imposing and elaborate armor. The armor of a Samurai was intended to be highly functional clothing and to make their soldiers appear more intimidating. To this day, many people assume the Samurai were large, imposing people. In reality, most were slimly built and stood less than six feet tall. The reason for this misconception is largely due to their armor.


However, expect for special occasions, Samurai rarely dressed to be impressive. Every article of clothing and every piece of armor served a significant purpose for battle. For instance, the two-piece vest they wore was made up of a thick outer vest, or hitatare, was designed to protect in battle, but also be quickly removed in case of a surprise attack. The other vest, or kimono, was worn underneath and made of silk to provide a cool covering for the warrior.


The O-Yoroi

Perhaps the most famously depicted armor of the Samurai was the O-Yoroi, or “great armour.” This suit was designed for mounted archery, though for several centuries it was considered the only acceptable armor for high-ranking Bushi (Samurai) warriors. At that time, the high-ranking Samurai served only in the cavalry and as archers.


The O-Yoroi included two large shoulder guards, to protect the upper arms, and a huge imposing helmet with a large, antler-like, metal piece, called a kuwagata, secured to the visor.


Materials Used In Samurai Armor

Contrary to a common myth, Japanese armor never incorporated the use of wood or bamboo, (with the exception of a few of the earliest cuirasses, or breastplate). Most commonly, armor was composed of leather or iron, sometimes both. The colors often gave the appearance of wood and are a major distinction of ancient Japanese armor.


Important Components Of A Japanese Suit Of Armor

While a full suit of armor is made up of 23 elements, sometimes more, there are only six major components of Japanese armor. The first is the cuirass, or breastplate. The type of cuirass determined the name of the armor. Second is the helmet, called the kabuto, which was often the most intimidating portion of the suit. The cuirass and the kabuto are the two oldest portions of Japanese armor. Next, the men yoroi or menpo, facemask, or more literally, face armor, was very popular, but seldom used in battle because Samurai wanted their face to be seen by their opponent. Then the armored sleeves, kote; these were actually a single sleeve until the 12th century, worn on the left arm as protection from the bowstring. The greaves (suneate) were leg protection, though early examples did not protect the knees. Knee guards were not introduced until the 12th century. Finally, cuisses, or haidate, were developed in the 13th century and became the final piece of the official Japanese armor. They were designed to shield the thighs, but were also rarely worn on the battlefield.

We pride ourselves on carrying the most complete and high quality selection of Japanese samurai armor, and medieval armor found anywhere, period. We have met with the top forges in the world to create these amazing functional works of art. We supply movie studios, television, broadway shows, and private collectors throughout the world. Let us know if you have any questions or need anything that you don't see here today! Thanks!