Helmet, Mask, Cuirass, and Collar of an Armor (Gusoku)
The breastplate of this armor is overlaid with a tooled, gilded, and painted piece of leather likely imported from Holland, reflecting the growing interest in European culture and goods in Japan in the eighteenth century, and the creative ways in which this interest was manifested in armorers’ art. Decorative European leather, often originally intended as a wall covering, was used to embellish a range of equipment, including sword mountings and equestrian tacks.
Armor full set (Gusoku)
It features a kusazuri (skirt) with an extremely rare color scheme of silk lacings in red, yellowish-green, black, and white. The mon (heraldic badge), in the form of three whirling commas (mitsudomoe mon), is that of the Okabe family, feudal lords of Kishiwada (present day Kishiwada City in Osaka Prefecture). The armor is signed on the inside of the helmet: Eichizan no Kuni Toyohara jū Bamen Tomotsugu Saku (Bamen Tomotsugu living in Eichizan province, Toyohara village).
The yoroi is characterized by a cuirass that wraps around the body and is closed by a separate panel (waidate) on the right side and by a deep four-sided skirt. In use from around the tenth to the fourteenth century, yoroi were generally worn by warriors on horseback.
The breastplate is covered with stenciled leather bearing the image of the powerful Buddhist deity Fudō Myō-ō, whose fierce mien and attributes of calmness and inner strength were highly prized by the samurai.
Helmet, Cuirass, Shoulder Defenses (Sode), and Arm Defenses of an Armor (Nimaido Gusoku)
Armor embossed in high relief came into vogue in the eighteenth century, a period of peace and stability under Tokugawa rule. With less concern about battlefield functionality, armorers explored new decorative possibilities, including embossing, a technique that would have compromised the armor’s defensive qualities, since it created catch points for an opponent’s weapons. The Myōchin, among the most well-known armor-making families of the period, specialized in this difficult but spectacular technique.
This example comes from the armory of Date Yoshimura (1703–1746), daimyo (lord) of Sendai. The helmet bowl, signed Saotome Iyetada, dates from the sixteenth century; the remainder of the armor was constructed in the eighteenth century. The breastplate is inscribed inside with the armorer’s name, Myōchin Munesuke (1688–1735). The embossed ornament on the solid iron plates is characteristic of the Myōchin school.
This armor was donated to the Kurama Temple, near Kyoto, by one of the Ashikaga shoguns. During the late Edo period, it passed into the possession of Sakai, daimyo (lord) of Wakasa, then military governor of Kyoto. Sakai had the armor refurbished and its silk lacings replaced with leather ones in the syle of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The oldest part of the armor, the helmet bowl, dates from the late Kamakura period (early fourteenth century).
Although constructed in the traditional sixteenth-century gusoku (complete set) fashion, this is actually an example of the revival of earlier armor styles during the Edo period. It was part of the large collection of Japanese arms and armor formed by Arms and Armor Department founding curator Bashford Dean around 1900, during his extended stays in Japan for scientific research. The armor was included in the Metropolitan Museum’s 1903 loan exhibition of Japanese arms and armor from Dean’s private collection, which the Museum purchased in 1904.
The breastplate and backplate of this distinctive armor are constructed of hinged iron plates. This design affords a similar degree of protection as solid-plate armor but provides greater flexibility and a closer fit for the wearer. Hinged cuirasses of the seventeenth century are rare, and were among the most expensive and time-consuming types of armor to produce. They are believed to have been used primarily by the Uesugi family and associated domains.
During the eighteenth century, there was a revival of interest in medieval Japanese culture. As the demand for historical styles of armor began to increase among the wealthy lords, contemporary armorers studied the older forms and techniques in order to duplicate them. This example imitates a yoroi of the twelfth to thirteenth century. It is characterized by a helmet with prominent rivet heads and a wide, flaring neck guard and by a large cuirass with a separate panel on the right side, large square shoulder guards, and a deep four-sided skirt.
Armor (Gusoku) of the Maeda Family
The armor is decorated in several places with the plum blossom mon (heraldic emblem) of the Maeda family, who were daimyo (feudal lords) of Kaga Province (the southern part of present-day Ishikawa Prefecture) and the second largest landowners in Japan after the Tokugawa family.
Edo Period Mask
Muneakira’s masterpiece, this mask by Muneakira was already famous when it was first published in 1763. It represents Jikokuten, guardian of the East, one of the Four Kings of Heaven. The mask is also one of the few to retain its original silk head covering sewn to the upper edges.
Cuirass (Armor for the Torso and Hips) and Greaves (Lower Leg Defenses)
The lavish decoration of this cuirass focuses on the theme of archery. The silver character yumi in the center of the breastplate is Japanese for “bow.” Below, there is a golden arrow entwined by dragons. A large sachihoko, a mythological animal that could control rain and therefore create favorable conditions for the use of bow and arrow, is depicted in silver and gold on the backplate.
Cuirass of a Dō-maru
This armor is believed to have been given by Date Masamune (died 1636), one of the most famous daimyo (lords) of his time, to a high-ranking samurai in his service, Shiraishi Bungo.
The breastplate is embossed in high relief with designs featuring a dragon and clouds. Made in late 18th–19th century in Japan.
For the manufacture of this armor, the masters used Iron, lacquer, gold, silver, copper alloy, leather, silk
The helmet crest (maidate) has a gilt-copper moon flanked by rising silver waves. The shoulder guards (sode) are decorated in gold lacquer with the image of a rabbit springing from seafoam, possibly a reference to Chikubushima, a popular Noh play.
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