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Original 19th Century Japanese Samurai Edo Period Ornate Enameled Kabuto Helmet with Armor Breastplate Set

Regular price $4,995.00

Item Description

Original Item: One-of-a-kind set. Japanese armor is thought to have evolved from the armor used in ancient China and Korea. Cuirasses and helmets were manufactured in Japan as early as the 4th century. Tankō, worn by foot soldiers and keikō, worn by horsemen were both pre-samurai types of early Japanese cuirass constructed from iron plates connected together by leather thongs.

During the Heian period (794-1185), the Japanese cuirass evolved into the more familiar style of armor worn by the samurai known as the dou or dō. Japanese armor makers started to use leather (nerigawa) and lacquer was used to weatherproof the armor parts. By the end of the Heian period the Japanese cuirass had arrived at the shape recognized as being distinctly samurai. Leather and or iron scales were used to construct samurai armors, with leather and eventually silk lace used to connect the individual scales (kozane) which these cuirasses were now being made from.

In the 16th century Japan began trading with Europe during what would become known as the Nanban trade. Samurai acquired European armour including the cuirass and comb morion which they modified and combined with domestic armour as it provided better protection from the newly introduced matchlock muskets known as Tanegashima. The introduction of the tanegashima by the Portuguese in 1543 changed the nature of warfare in Japan causing the Japanese armor makers to change the design of their armours from the centuries-old lamellar armours to plate armour constructed from iron and steel plates which was called tosei gusoku (new armours). Bullet resistant armours were developed called tameshi gusoku or (bullet tested) allowing samurai to continue wearing their armour despite the use of firearms.

The era of warfare called the Sengoku period ended around 1600, Japan was united and entered the peaceful Edo period, samurai continued to use both plate and lamellar armor as a symbol of their status but traditional armours were no longer necessary for battles. During the Edo period light weight, portable and secret hidden armors became popular as there was still a need for personal protection. Civil strife, duels, assassinations, peasant revolts required the use of armours such as the kusari katabira (chain armor jacket) and armored sleeves as well as other types of armour which could be worn under ordinary clothing. Edo period samurai were in charge of internal security and would wear various types of kusari gusoku (chain armor) and shin and arm protection as well as forehead protectors (hachi-gane).

Armor continued to be worn and used in Japan until the end of the samurai era (Meiji period) in the 1860s, with the last use of samurai armor happening in 1877 during the Satsuma Rebellion.

Japanese armor was generally constructed from many small iron (tetsu) and/or leather (nerigawa) scales (kozane) and/or plates (ita-mono), connected to each other by rivets and macramé cords (odoshi) made from leather and/or braided silk, and/or chain armor (kusari). Noble families had silk cords made in specific patterns and colors of silk thread. Many of these cords were constructed of well over 100 strands of silk. Making these special silk cords could take many months of steady work, just to complete enough for one suit of armour. Japanese armour was designed to be as lightweight as possible as the samurai had many tasks including riding a horse and archery in addition to swordsmanship. The armour was usually brightly lacquered to protect against the harsh Japanese climate. Chain armour (kusari) was also used to construct individual armor pieces and full suits of kusari were even used.

This fine example we are offering dates from the first half of the 19th century, the later portion of the Edo period (江戸時代, Edo jidai) or Tokugawa period (徳川時代, Tokugawa jidai) of Japanese history. This is the period between 1603 and 1867, when Japan was under the rule of the Tokugawa shogunate and the country's 300 regional daimyo.

The set consists of the following:

Kabuto (兜) Helmet:
This example is offered in very good condition. The main portion of the helmet is made of blacksmith forged iron which has been lacquered and possibly covered with lacquered paper. It is definitely magnetic, and has a very nice brown finish that almost looks like a tortoiseshell pattern. It features two Fukigaeshi, which are the wing-like projections on the side of the visor.

The helmet has two large semi-circular plates similar in form to the rear helmet visor, which are attached with dark navy blue connection cords. The interior has a complete fabric and leather liner with a colorful green and orange cord, which would be plaited under the head to hold it in place. The front of the helmet has the hari-date for attachment of a crest, and there is a paper and wood gilt crest installed, which we have not been able to identify.

Mengu (面具) Face and Neck Guard:
The face protection armor came in various configurations, and this is the Hanbō, which covers the lower face from under the nose to the chin. It also has an attached Yodare-kake throat guard. It is offered in very good condition, and is a nice rust brown color on the outside, and red on the inside. It is constructed from lacquered iron/steel, held together by cloth cords. Please note that the cords are in delicate condition, and some have already torn through.

Dou (胴) Cuirass Chest Armor with Sode (袖) Spaulders:
The chest and shoulder armor of this set is completely non-magnetic, so it is probably made from lacquered leather and/or wood. It has a hinge on the left side, so it opens up on the right. The "scale" designs on the front and rear are made by laying lacquered paper onto the body of the armor, and then this is coated with further lacquer. There is an ornately decorated under layer around the shoulders as well.

The interior of the armor is lined with a thin layer of lacquered handlayed paper, which appears to mimic the appearance of calfskin leather, and this has been coated with gold paint to give the appearance of gilding. There are some transparent horn toggles which hold the shoulder straps to the front of the breast plate, which are attached with light blue cords. The rest of the cording is mostly blue.

The shoulder guards are attached to the top of the breast plate, and are relatively simple compared to the rest of the armor set. They may be younger than the breast plate, as it was common to re-use the central portion and replace the accessories as they became damaged over the years.

This is genuine period armor, not reproduction, much more research can, and should, be conducted. This is a ready-to-display set of Edo period Samurai armor!

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