- Museum number
Set of armour, with two-piece cuirass (nimaido gusoku) and surcoat (jinbaori) bearing the crest of the Mori clan, also ceremonial fly-whisk of paper. With two lacquered wooden storage boxes with metal fittings bearing Mori crests, modern wooden stand.
- Production date
Height: 150 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- This particular set of two-piece cuirass (nimai-do gosoku) armour is of exceptionally high quality. During the Edo period (1615-1868) the Tokugawa shogunate enacted a four-class system. The warrior class was the hegemonic group, and armour and other related items were displayed to demonstrate their power and prestige.
Armour during the Heian, Kamakura, Muromachi, and Momoyama periods was utilitarian, meant to protect its wearer from injury in battle. Japanese medieval warfare often involved a series of duels where combatants would call out their lineage and rank, offer a challenge and then agree or decline to fight. In this situation the identity of the combatants would be clear. However, in a melee, important or wealthy families, particularly those wishing to ascend in rank, could outfit themselves in more distinctive armour and helmets. These items bore their family crest (mon) and possibly artistic depictions of anything ranging from demons and Buddhist or Daoist symbols, antlers, to more comical tobacco pipes. In the 16th century the use of distinctive and bright colours on armour both in the main body and in the ties, as well as increasingly creative and intricate helmets came to the fore.
Japanese armour shows technical changes over time. The skirt was added as mounted combat fell out of favour at the end of the 14th century. As polearms and firearms came into use, the cuirass started to feature an iron plate protecting the chest. Additionally, changes were made to the ties to reduce infestation from lice and other pests. A major change to Japanese armour was the greater emphasis on style and fashion that took place in the peaceful Edo period (1615-1868). Armour served as a symbol of identity marking the individual as a member of their clan. As the Edo period progressed and the memory of warfare and large-scale battle began to fade, armour became less a means of protecting the combatant in battle and more an artistic statement regarding the clan’s wealth and position. At this point, many examples of Japanese armour become so artistic as to be rendered entirely non-functional, with helmets too heavy to wear and designs so intricate they would have impeded movement. This compelling set of armour is one such example of privileging the aesthetic over the functional while retaining certain useful elements. For example, under the chin of the facemask is a distinct circular hole for the draining of blood and sweat during combat situations.
This set of armour was created for the Mori clan from Harima Province (present-day Hyogo Prefecture). The family crest of a stylised crane in profile within a circle belonged to two branches of the Mori clan, one based in Ako Domain, the other based in Mikazuki Domain. The armour is an excellent example of craftsmanship incorporating elements such as stencilled doeskin, shakudo metalwork details, and silk brocade cords. It demonstrates the family’s wealth, influence, and position.
This armour is of the nimai-do gusoku type, meaning there are two parts to the cuirass which hinge together. (This is distinct from the older type of armour known as domaru or haramaki which wrapped around the chest.) In this set of armour, the hinge on the left side of the cuirass is trimmed with copper alloyed with gold (shakudo) and chiselled with nanako and flower-work designs. The cuirass is further decorated with real scales (honkozane) and stencilled doeskin. The unusual patch of doeskin at the centre of the cuirass is detachable and features the rising crane of the Mori clan in copper. The helmet is in the bowl style and is made up of thirty-two plates. It features an arrow design (shinotare), a sky piercer (tentsuki) and turned back straps next to the visor (fukigaeshi) in addition to three Mori crests. The mask is done in lacquered iron and depicts the face of a grimacing man with wrinkles, copper teeth, and a moustache in animal hair. The throat is guarded by a gorget (tare) of four panels of lacquered iron and a throat ring (nodowa) of two panels. The latter is done in false scales (kiritsuke kozane). The pauldrons (sode) match the cuirass in that they are also done with honkozane. The gauntlets (kote) include detachable underarm protection and are done in the gourd (hyotan) style and feature thumb guards. The skirt (kusazuri) is divided into seven parts each with five plates. The cuirass (haidate) is in large scales (iyozane) with silk matching the sleeves. The interior of the cuirass is lined with leather covered with gold leaf. The greaves (suneate) are strips of iron bound with chainmail.
For further information, see:
Nobuhiko Maruyama, Clothes of Samurai Warriors (1994)
Victor Harris & Nobuo Ogasawara, Swords of the Samurai (1990)
Morihiro Ogawa, Art of the Samurai: Japanese Arms and Armor, 1158-1868 (2009)
Sasama, Yoshihiko, Zuroku Nihon no kassen bugu jiten (1999)
Barbier-Mueller Museum, Art of Armor: Samurai Armor from the Anna and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection (2011)
Yoshiaki Shimizu, Japan the Shaping of Daimyo Culture, 1185-1868 (1989)
Myra Shackley, "Arms and the Men; 14th Century Japanese Swordsmanship Illustrated by Skeletons from Zaimokuza near Kamakura, Japan," in World Archaeology 18 (1986)
Antony Karasulas, "Zimokuza Reconsidered: The Forensic Evidence and Classical Japanese Swordsmanship" in World Archaeology 36: 4 (2004)
Suzuki, et al., Medieval Japanese Skeletons from the Burial Site at Zaimokuza, Kamakura City (1956)
- On display (G93/dc10)
- Exhibition history
2018 October - , BM Mitsubishi Corporation Japanese Galleries
- Acquisition date
- 2017 (1 May)
- Registration number