What is Samurai Armour?

What is a Samurai Armour? Samurai armour was developed at the close of the Heian period of Japan and was called oyoroi.

What is  Samurai Armour?

The samurai were a class of ancient warriors that originated in Japan. Believing in honourable combat and being primarily mounted warriors, they closely resembled the knights of Europe. Samurai were the rich and powerful noble class and followed the bushido, their code of honour. Samurai controlled the battlefield and politics from the 12th century to 1876 after the Meiji restoration. The new Emperor ended their right to be the only armed force in favour of a western-style conscripted army.

Samurai armour was developed at the close of the Heian period of Japan and was called oyoroi. Samurai armour was developed to be strong enough to protect in battle while being flexible enough to permit the free movement needed by a sword-fighter. The style of armour that they used has its roots in an Asiatic tradition of lamellar armour. Lamellar armour, or scale armour, consisted of lacquered plates of metal or leather-bound by silk or leather lacing. Silk was more commonly used than leather because it was less prone to shrinkage and hardening from water.

The best examples of the Japanese oyoroi can be found during the Muromachi period when the armour was being widely worn by the highest ranks. Most armours had large rectangular shoulder defences called osode, which were made up of large lamellar plates. An armoured silk sleeve, along with a combination of mail and plate protected the left arm. This was called a kote. Originally, the right arm was left free, but later was protected by an armored sleeve called the shingote. The skirt that is commonly seen in pictures of samurai armor is called the kusazuri, and it mainly protected the thighs and lower body. The kusazuri was made up of seven or eight sections to allow the greatest mobility. Shin guards called cuneate were used to protect the lower legs and were made of small plates.

The helmet they wore, called the kabuto included attachments such as a peak, called the Masashi or a grotesque mask with oversized moustaches. Some helmets had a hole at the apex called a tehen. This allowed not only for ventilation but also for the samurai's hair to pass through. A cap was worn beneath the helmet, called the eboshi and provided padding. The bowl of the helmet called the Hachi was made of riveted metal plates and protected the skull. The face and brow were protected by the happuri, a single piece of armour which tied around behind the head and under the helmet. A neck guard, called the shikoro reached down to the shoulders and added to the defence from arrows or swords. Finally, the throat was protected by the yodarekake, which attached to the mengu(mask).