Image Japanese samurai armour (Sendai-do no gusoko), c1735

TLF ID R4418

This is a suit of samurai armour made around 1735. The body is made from black lacquered steel on leather, while the helmet (kabuto) and face mask (yodare kake) are made from beaten metal. The armour includes shoulder guards (sode), sleeves (kote), gloves, thigh guards (haidate) and shin guards (suneate). Chainmail has been used on the sleeves and leg guards. The separate plates (lamella) are strung together with coloured silk and leather cords and decorated in places with silk trim. The armour measures 150 cm x 80 cm x 60 cm and weighs 10 kg.

Tags: Samurai


Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset is a distinctive suit of armour worn by a Japanese samurai in the middle Edo period of the 18th century - based on the evidence provided by the mon, or maker's mark (a small engraved brass plaque on the body section), it was made by Muneyoshi of the House of Myouchin.
  • It illustrates how a samurai dressed for war - this type of armour was popular with Victorian collectors, and was most likely acquired in Japan by a European collector in the 19th century, a time in Japanese history when the armour was most likely to be worn for show and ceremony; the armour was donated to the Colonial Museum (forerunner of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa) in 1883.
  • It illustrates a style of armour very different from European armour, which took its shape from the owner's body - Japanese gusoku were suspended from, rather than fitted to, the body, so as to give way under blows; it was also about one-third the weight of traditional European armour.
  • It reflects the place of samurai in Japanese society - for more than a thousand years they were members of a powerful military caste; they started out as warriors employed to serve the interests of the lords of the land, with high ideals of loyalty and sacrifice; after the 1500s they became powerful administrators and keepers of the peace.
  • It illustrates the use of lacquer on armour - lacquer was made from the milky sap of trees from the Rhus family, which hardened in a form similar to plastic, making it hard, durable and resistant to water, acids, scratches and heat.
  • It is the first suit of armour to be fully conserved in New Zealand - the conservation took more than two years of work, including specialist work on conserving the lacquer; as a result, the armour should now maintain its current condition for several hundred years.

Other details

Contributors
  • Content provider
  • Copyright holder
  • Organisation: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Remarks: Reproduced courtesy of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Author
  • Organisation: Muneyoshi of the House of Myouchin
  • Remarks: designer
  • Publisher
  • Date of contribution: 02 Sep 2013
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia
  • Address: Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
  • URL: http://www.esa.edu.au
Access profile
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Learning resource type
  • Image
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Rights
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements