History of Japanese Samurai Armour

history of samurai armor

The detailed lacquer work, along with the lavish textiles and forged steel components make the elegant suit of the Japanese Samurai Armour. The intriguing history of the complex construction of handiwork is something that everyone should explore, so let’s dive into the history of this famous and fascinating suit used to scare the enemy.

Who was Samurai?

The meaning of Samurai is “the ones who serve.” The Samurai – an elite military class of soldiers and officials – were warrior-nobbling members of the Japanese society, with a strong honor called the bushido. Over time, their importance started to decline, and they were seen more as spiritual guides than warriors. Their bushido was an example of a code for living a moral life, and their beautiful armor just became a reminder of the historical role they had played.

What is Samurai Japanese Armor, and how were they constructed?

The Japanese Samurai used these armors. They were made mostly by the use of small iron, leather scales or plates. They were connected by the rivets or macramé cords, usually made from braided silk, chain armor, or leather. They were tried to be made as lightweight as possible to allow the easy movement of the one wearing it.

What does it tell about the Samurai?

The main body section was known as a do or cuirass, made from plates or lamellae – little oblong-shaped pieces of steel that were connected by leather and had layers of lacquer. The helmet had empty holders on the sides for a front chest and hair pommel. The face mask had ugly and terrifying features to scare the enemy away.

The neck curtain of jointed metal provided them with extra protection. Shoulder guards were made from small plates to allow easy movement. Thigh guards had chain mail and plates to keep the wearers lower body safe. Under the suit that he will wear, he will be wearing a one-piece baggy garment along with a kimono on top of it and some loose pants.

Moving on

Now that we know much and enough about how and what Japanese samurai armor are, we can jump into the history of how these fascinating suits had come to this world and developed as time went on, into the epitome of beauty that they are today.

The history of Samurai Japanese Armour

This suit’s history dates way back to the 4th century when helmets and cuirasses were produced in Japan. And over the centuries, they have developed incredibly since its introduction. During the period of the Heian area (794 to 1185 A.D.), the heavily armed o-yoroi was worn by the senior mounted Samurai, while the lower-class infantry Samurai were left with the lighter and sophisticated do-maru.

Gradually, these developed into the armor style of Samurai, known as the dou or do. The Japanese armor markers started to use leather with lacquer to make parts of the armor weather-proof. The decoration of o-yoroi reached its peak around the end of the Heian period in the Genpei War. As time went on, the senior Samurai started to wear the lightweight do-maru as well.

In the 16th century, Japan began its trade with Europe, known as the Nanban trade. The introduction of the matchlock muskets “Tanegashima” in Japan completely changed the warfare in Japan. Thanks to the trade, the samurai warriors could get their hands on European armor and modified them together with domestic armor to offer more protection against the “Tanegashima.”

The new armor style was called tosei-gosoku, which evolved from the do-maru lineage, which allowed warriors to continue wearing their armor despite using the firearms. During this period, the Samura, especially the high ranking ones, owned a huge amount of armor. The Sengoku era ended around 1600. This time was when Japan had united, and they entered the peaceful period of the Edo era. Although there were peace and unity, the Samurai continued plate and lamellar armor symbolized their status.

The armors were more used for show than for battles, as there were none. Due to this reason, less was spent on military campaigns, and more was spent on their swords and armors. During this period, personal protection was still needed as there were peasant revolts and assassinations, and so the lightweight and portable armors started becoming popular.

The chainmail and defensive armor could be hidden to look like they are a normal part of their clothing. The armor was developing to look more attractive and eye-appealing than they had been before. Countless armors of glory were made for their status.

Although the armor continued to be used in Japan until the Meiji period, which was the end of the samurai era, the last time it was really used was during the Satsuma Rebellion in 1877. In the Meiji era, the samurais were abolished to break their power, which marked the end of the Japanese samurai armor. Only a few pieces of these beautiful and sophisticated suits exist, which can be seen in museums.

The individual parts of the Armor

1- Do – this is a chest armor that was made of iron or leather plates of various shapes and sizes.
2- Sode – rectangular and broad shoulder protection, which was made with the help of leather plates or iron
3- Koten – this is an armored glove-like sleeve, made from cloth covered in iron plates and connected by a chain, extending to the shoulder and covering the forearms.
4- Kabuto – this is a helmet made from leather plates or iron riveted together.
5- Haidat – a thigh guard tied around the waist and used to cover the thighs (obviously). Haidat was made from cloth with leather plates of various shapes and sizes or iron. They were usually sewn to cloth and connected by chain armor.
6-Suneate – these were shin guards that were made from iron splints. They were connected together by chain armor, sewn to the cloth, and tied around the calf.
7- Kusazuri – it was made from the leather plates or iron and used to protect the wearer’s lower body and upper leg.


The study of these Japanese samurai armors can be captivating when studied in detail. As you go back and learn more and more, the more enthralling, you find it. While this article may not give you the full information on these beautiful suits, you may probably be satisfied with the amount of knowledge you have regarding it. And now that you know, you can explore it even further and learn about the intricate and beautiful armor.

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