A Little Bit Of History: Samurai Armor

Between the 8th and 19th century, samurai warriors served and protected the country of Japan with honor and self sacrifice. Yesterday we went to a little town called Chiran where samurais use to live. There you can tour a street full of samurai residences and gardens that have been preserved by the national government. In one of these houses, suits of armor were casually on display for the public to view. This got us curious about how many parts make up each suit and what each part’s function is. Found the following list of what a full suit is comprised of:

Dou or dō, a chest armor made up of iron and or leather plates of various sizes and shapes with pendents *kusazuri made from iron or leather plates hanging from the front and back of the dou (dō) to protect the lower body and upper leg.

Sode, large rectangular shoulder protection made from iron and or leather plates.

Kote, armoured glove like sleeves which extended to the shoulder or han kote (kote gauntlets) which covered the forearms. Kote were made from cloth covered with iron plates of various size and shape, connected by chain armor (kusari).

Kabuto, a helmet made from iron or leather plates (from 3 to over 100 plates) riveted together. A neck guard shikoro made from several layers of curved iron or leather strips was suspended from the bottom edge of the kabuto.

Mengu, various types of lacquered metal and or leather facial armour designed in a way that the top heavy helmet kabuto could be tied and secured to them by various metal posts. Mengu had throat guards yodare-kake made from several rows of iron or leather plates or kusari (chain armour) sewn to a cloth backing, suspended from the bottom edge.

Haidate, thigh guards which tied around the waist and covered the thighs. These were made from cloth with small iron and or leather plates of various size and shape, usually connected to each other by chain armour (kusari) and sewn to the cloth.

Suneate, shin guards made from iron splints connected together by chain armor (kusari) and sewn to cloth and tied around the calf.

PBS has an interactive timeline of the history of samurais if you want to know more.