Japanese Patterns of Design
Statue of Kusunoki Masashige

Yoroi Style: Japanese Armor in the Age of Civil Wars

Yoroi Style, Samurai warrior profile in bw
Yoroi Style, Samurai Warrior (Tumblr)

Yoroi Style – Japanese armor in the age of civil wars varies in materials, colors, and style. Japanese armor has been changed its shape and materials to adapt the change of tactics and arms. It sure had to give a worrier the protection, but Yoroi was more than that. It is a brief and vivid depiction of the samurai’s way of life.

Brief History of Yoroi

Samurai in Yoroi photo taken between 1863 and 1900
Samurai in Yoroi photo taken between 1863 and 1900 (google.com)

Yoroi is Japanese traditional armor which had used for protection in the battle when swords and arrows were used.

Bushido Virtues: Samurai Code of Conduct Holds Good

The origin of the Japanese sword and its tactics, we can find in Tohoku area (North eastern part of Japan). Hence we assume we could find the origin of armors, helmets and such in Tohoku area as well.

Yoroi Style

There are  many types of Yoroi, but mainly we will look into O-yoroi which is perhaps the most popular design we recognize as Japanese armor.

yoroi style, O-yoroi
O-yoroi (Wikipedia)

Mainly O-yoroi is made of leather and steel, but yoroi, in general, has been revised many times and changed its use due to the change of warfare and the type of battle until the Meiji Restoration. Since then, a disappearance of the samurai class and the modernization of armaments made yoroi out of practice.

Now it is held for its historic and ornamental quality. However, we can feel their spirit by their yoroi style.

Arms and Armor of the Samurai: The History of Weaponry in Ancient Japan by Ian Bottomley (Author)
Get your copy on Amazon!: Arms and Armor of the Samurai: The History of Weaponry in Ancient Japan by Ian Bottomley (Author)

Sense of Beauty

Statue of Masashige Kusunoki at the square in front of the Imperial Palace
Statue of Masashige Kusunoki at the square in front of the Imperial Palace (google.com)

Armor is not just for physical protection but it expresses the way of life and the sense of beauty. Their yoroi style are the expression both in an aesthetic and a practical manner.

Originally, Japanese people put an importance in beauty and being a standout. They valued the difference one can do to make oneself stand out in the crowd. This spirit you can see in Harajuku now.

Japanese Family Crest: List of the Lineage Symbols

At the age of civil wars, you could die at any minute, your battle armor could be your burial clothes. That is why the armor is not just a protection, but they used it as a canvas to express their beliefs.

Sengoku Great Japan Armor Nobunaga Oda
Get your Oda Nobunaga Yoroi at Amazon!: Sengoku Great Japan Armor Nobunaga Oda12.2-Inch size of Oda Nobunaga’s Yoroi

Kabuto – Helmet

Kabuto with moon
Kabuto (Pinterest)

Tatemono is ornamented to a helmet. This is where you can express your belief or way of life. So there are thousands of different unique tatemono attached to Kabuto.

water buffalo horns helmet, 黒漆塗桃形大水牛脇立兜
Water buffalo horns helmet, 【重要文化財 黒漆塗桃形大水牛脇立兜】
安土桃山時代 福岡市博物館
(東京イベント.info)

Kabuto with horns of deer was believed to posses the power of gods.

Kemushi Kabuto
Kemushi Kabuto – Worm-like Helmet (google.com)

Others have worm-like designed kabuto, which was thought to be a good luck charm because worm goes only forward.

But was it ok to stand out this much in the battlefield? In the age of civil wars, the way of battle has changed from the former times. It used to be one on one with a sword, but in this era, they fought in a group using guns. One had to be recognizable to show off one’s military achievement to its lord, and to let its vassals know one is all right in the field.

Rabbit Ear-like Helmet
Rabbit Ear-like Helmet (google.com)

Rabbit ear-shaped kabuto was popular since worries liked the swiftness of rabbits. There are many varieties of rabbit ear-shaped kabuto.

Ring and Chicken's feather helmet
輪貫鳥毛兜 – Ring and chicken’s feather helmet (google.com)

Perhaps this helmet belonged to Tachibana Muneshige, who was a samurai during the Azuchi–Momoyama period and an Edo Period daimyo also known as Tachibana Munetora. He was 5.9 feet and not just an outstanding samurai, but a multi-talented person who were excellent at writing songs, doing calligraphy, cooking, carving Buddha statue and so on.

Japanese Armor, The Galeno Collection by Ian Bottomley (Author)
Get your copy on Amazon!: Japanese Armor, The Galeno Collection by Ian Bottomley (Author)

Psychological War

朱漆塗紺糸威縫延腰取二枚胴具足, Ii-ke armor set
Ii Family Red Armor Set (blog.livedoor.jp)

Red helmet, red armor, red shin guards, all red.. vivid red colors should have been easy to spot, why they used this color in the battle field? Vivid red color is the color of blood. Red express the nature of aggression, which you can recognize instantly. Not just leader, but all warriors of the lowest rank put the red yoroi on,  it must have been a huge threat if you saw troops in red were coming towards you.

Yoroi and helmet
Yoroi (Pinterest)

As we have seen, yoroi is not just the protective armor, but also the media, which shows the way of samurai worrier’s life in the age of civil war era. Yoroi style shows their way of life.

How did they feel when putting them on before the battle and fortunately, taking it off after the battle, it’s beyond our imagination.

The Samurai Sourcebook by Stephen Turnbull (Author)
Get your copy on Amazon: The Samurai Sourcebook by Stephen Turnbull (Author)

Reference

file152 「武将ファッション」 (美の壺)

Hiroko Matsuyama

Add comment

Most popular

Most discussed