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What Type of Armor Did Japanese Samurai Warriors Wear?

March 15, 2018

What Type of Armor Did Japanese Samurai Warriors Wear?

Japanese samurai warriors are regarded as being some of the fiercest warriors in history. Also known as bushi or buke, they followed a strict doctrine that emphasized the importance of the master. Samurai warriors throughout feudal Japan played an essential role in shaping the country into what it is today. If it weren't for their courage and bravery, perhaps Japan would be an entirely different country today.

Of course, Japanese samurai warriors were the country's main fighting force. In addition to maintaining law and order, they were responsible for fending off invading forces, such as the Mongols. They used a variety of weapons, tools and equipment to achieve this goal. Additionally, they often wore heavy sets of armor to protect themselves from injury during battle. In this post, we're going to explore some of the most common types of armor worn by traditional Japanese samurai warriors.

Origins of Japanese Samurai Armor

It's believed that Japanese samurai armor originated from Ancient China and Korea. Of course, this shouldn't come as a surprise given that many traditional Japanese swords also featured similar designs as those produced by its Korean and Chinese neighbors. It wasn't until the 4th century, however, when Japan began making its own cuirasses and helmets, which would become the first standard armor worn by samurai warriors.

Around the 16th century, Japan opened trading routes with Europe. Known as the Nanban trade, this allows the otherwise isolated island nation to receive goods and armor produced in other parts of the world. Samurai warriors were able to acquire European armor like the steel cuirass and comb morion, which were later modified to provide a higher level of protection for the country's samurai warriors.

Components of Samurai Armor

While different samurai warriors wore different types of armor, some of the most common pieces of armor worn by the country's main fighting force included the following:

  • Do: A chest piece made of leather and/or iron with various pendants.
  • Kasazuri: Also made of iron or leather, these plates were worn over the front and back of the legs to protect the warrior's lower body.
  • Sode:  This was a large shoulder piece made of iron or leather.
  • Kote: Featuring cloth covered in iron, kote were armored gloves worn by samurai warriors.
  • Kabuto: The Kabuto was an iron or leather helmet featuring up to 100 riveted plates. It often featured a neck guard known as shikoro, which was also made of iron or leather.
  • Mengu: This was the primary face protection mask worn by samurai warriors.
  • Haidate: Worn around the waist and thighs, the Haidate consisted of leather or iron materials for a superior level of protection.
  • Suneate: These were shin guards made of iron splints that were woven together with chain armor and secured around the calf.

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