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Japanese armoursmith

japonese edo period

Material: Iron leather and fabric

Size: Cm 180 high

review by gherardo turchi

This work is a rare and outstanding example of a samurai suit of armor created in one of those flourishing workshops of master gunsmiths active in Japan during the Edo period.

However, the beginning of the Edo era is generally traced back to 1603, when Ieyasu assumed the title of shōgun. The bakufu, a military government ruled by the shōgun, settled in the city of Edo, while the emperor remained in the city of Kyoto: a sort of diarchy was thus created, characterized, over time, by the overwhelming power of the shogunate to the detriment of the imperial one.

In the Edo period, the social structure, mibunsei, was organized through a clear hierarchical subdivision of the population into distinct classes of belonging. While representing only the 5% of the entire population, the samurai maintained a dominant social position, occupying mainly bureaucratic and administrative functions.

Samurai were the only ones to wear armors and were authorized to carry swords, which were symbols showing also their executioner nature, being able by law to kill someone then leave, without giving any explanation.

It was, therefore, necessary to create some more important and safer – at the same time – armors for this class; this is the reason that led the gunsmiths to combine the boiled leather plates, previously used for the realization of the defensive suits, with parts of forged iron, respecting the dictates of lightness and practicality typical of such war artifacts, however.

This armor belongs to that type of production. With dō, cuirass, sode, shoulder straps, and haidate, tigh pieces, made of iron sheet covered with leather, the armor is complete, as well as kabuto, mempo, and yodare-kake in black lacquered iron, including all those parts such as suneate, kote, and tekkō, all joined by precious blue and red silk odoshi.

This armor is devoid of kōgake, a prevalent detail in ancient works such as this one, as shoes were the first to wear out over the centuries.

Finally, particular attention goes to the decoration of the mempo, enriched by a mustache, to give an even more realistically frightening air to the opponent’s eyes.

This suit of armor looks very well preserved, thus showing the special care and attention it got over the centuries

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