Page Last Updated: Wednesday, 04 November 2015 13:35 EDT,   2007, 2008, 2010

Displaying Japanese Armor


Japanese (Samurai) armor served the same purpose as the armor of European knights - protection. Unlike European armor, which evolved into rigid plate armor, Japanese armor was more like the European scale armor, which consisted of small plates linked together, in some ways intermediate between chain mail and plate armor. The Japanese armor, while varied in detail, basically consisted of iron plates of various sizes and shapes connected with silk cords.  The plates were overlapped to provide protection, while the silk connections allowed for flexibility. While this design provided advantages in use, it does cause problems in displaying the armor, as their is no human body to give it support.

The display requires a support, as if the armor were sitting on something. The best support is the armor storage box, shown below.

1st: Attach "skirt" to armor box

The display also requires an armature to mimic the shape of the human torso.  The armature supplies "shoulders" and a "head."  The design of the armature varies greatly. The next three figures illustrate a "knock-down" armature.

2nd: Put armature together on top of box
(here, adding shoulder support)

 

2nd: Put armature together on top of box
(here, showing helmet support)

 

2nd: Put armature together on top of box
(here, showing completed armature)

The details of any given suit of armor will vary; however, the following figures, while pertaining to a particular suit of armor, may give some clues for other suits.

3rd: Put shoulder pads on armature

Note the loops that are attached to the parts of the body armor that come over the shoulders.  These provide attachment points for the arms and shoulder armor.

4th: Attach body armor over shoulder pads

The sash is decorative.  The leg armor are not connected to anything and may require stuffing of some stiffening material to stand upright.

5th: Tie sash and place leg armor and shoes in front

The arms are tied with sufficient slack to rest in natural positions.

6th: Tie arm armor to body armor

The shoulder armor is tied more closely, to protect the shoulders and provide some neck protection.

7th: Tie shoulder armor to body armor

The helmet (in this case) has connection points that allow the creation of two loops to hold connection points on the menpo (next two figures). The cord is then adjusted to fit beneath the chin of the menpo.

8th: Place helmet on armature and connect cord that will hold
face armor (menpo)

 

9th: Attach menpo to helmet

Once everything is connected, it will require adjustments to look right.

10th: Arrange armor

This figure shows the completed display.

Completed armor display

This figure shows the display of another suit of armor. Notice that the first suit had large plates in the body armor; whereas this suit has many smaller plates connected by silk cords. The display of this suit also includes other traditional accoutrements.

Another armor display, with tachi, stirrups, and flag

Bill Selden wearing a set of armor, wearing and drawing a sword and holding a naginata.

 

"Wearing Samurai Armor," a 2.5 minute movie, starring Bill Selden, 1963 or 64.

 

These figures illustrate three of the suits of armor that have been in Col. Hartley's collection.

Dean S. Hartley III

 


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