Samurai were elite Japanese warriors who commanded swords as true masters. Personally, anytime I see a sword, an image of a samurai, dressed in his traditional armor, pops up in my mind. That is how my imagination works in this case. Maybe, it is because I watched too many movies about them, or simple it may be because of the chewing gum stickers I collected in my early childhood years. Anyways, a sword and a samurai are not too far apart from each other. So, I justify my imagination.
Enough is said for the introduction. Now, let’s focus on Samurai armor. I always found their armors so fascinating. I even kept a picture of a samurai warrior in his full deployed armor as a wallpaper for my computer.
Here are the main Samurai armors:
- Yoroi armor.
Yoroi is a great Samurai armor. Well, it means exactly “great armor” in Japanese too. A real yoroi wasn’t available for every samurai. Only rich and high ranking samurai could afford to wear one. Nevertheless, lower ranking samurai wore armors somewhat resembling Yoroi, but theirs were much simpler and lighter. The Yoroi weighed about 65 lbs (30kg) and they had a box-like shape. They were mainly designed for horseback warriors.
After wearing a Yoroi, Samurai lost their flexible movements due to its weight and uncomfortable structure. That was one of the reasons why the samurai left them out of their wardrobe in the 15th century.
In its heydays, Yoroi, which took up to 265 days to make, meant good investment for Samurai.
Domaru is another Samurai armor. Its origin traces back to the 11th century. That means it is a century younger than Yoroi armors. However, both of them, Domaru and Yoroi armors, reached their popularity during the Genpei war, which took place at the end of the 12th century.
Unlike Yoroi armors, Domaru was lighter, designed for on-foot warriors and even cheaper to make. Some high ranking samurai even preferred Domaru armors over Yoroi since it allowed them to make free movements during battles.
Kabuto was a type of helmet used by Samurai. The origin of those helmets traces back to an earlier time than the time of samurai warriors. Archeologists estimate its origin to be 5th century because Kabuto was found in one of the graves that belonged to that era.
Those combat helmets come with a neck guard, called Shikoro. And, they were available in various types. Almost all of them had strings that needed to be tied under the chin to keep them secure on the head.
Apart from being a head guard, Kabuto had a symbolic role as well. The helmets were decorated with crests that symbolized mythical entities, animal spirits, and various others. Those crests were called datemono.
Mengu is one of the interesting parts of Samurai armor. Mengu, also called Mempo, was facial armor worn by samurai warriors. Those protective masks were crafted in several styles:
Menpo style covered only half of the face, starting from the nose down to the chin.
Happuri armor covered the forehead and the cheeks.
Hanbo style was designed to protect the chin and the throat.
Somen style of Mengu covered the entire face.
Some of these facial armors had a hole in a chin area in order to drain sweat.
Yugake is an under armor glove made of tanned deerskin, and mostly used in Samurai archery. The gloves allowed warriors to pull the bowstring firmly.
Kusazuri was a skirt like armor that designed to protect hips, groin area, and posterior.
Kegutsu boots, also known as yoroi boots is a footwear usually worn by high ranking samurai during ceremonies. Artisans hand-crafted these shoes using bearskin.
Mino was also samurai armor. Unlike other armors, the samurai did not use it to shield themselves against enemy strikes. Instead, they used it to protect themselves against forces of nature, the snow and the rain. Most of the time, it was used by a low ranking samurai since it could be made easily.