Antique Black Lacquered Okegawa Nimai Do Samurai Armor with Kicho Certificate (A-21)
Period: the Late Edo period
appraised by The Association for the Research and Preservation of Japanese Helmets and Armor
■Helmet bowl: Zunari Kabuto
The Kabuto (兜, helmet) is a protector for the head. When people started using the Kabuto, it was initially designed for practical use. However, the principal purpose of its design has changed with time; Samurai tried to express their dignity, personality, or religion by wearing the characteristic designed Kabutos. According to a theory, these uniquely designed Kabutos were made from the late Muromachi (1467-1573) period to the Edo (江戸, 1603-1868) period. This type of Kabuto is categorized as the Kawari Kabuto (変わり兜), and a variety of materials were used to create them. For example, animal fur, seashells, plants, and paper were used as materials for decoration.
We think this Kabuto is categorized as a type of Zunari Kabuto (頭形兜). Zunari Kabutos are usually made up of five plates glued together; Uwa-Ita (上板, upper plate), Waki-Ita (脇板, right and left plates), Koshimaki-Ita (腰巻板, wide board), and front plate. Exceptionally, there are also Zunari Kabutos that are made from a single plate hammered out.
■Shikoro (side neck guard):
Black lacquer iron plates laced with navy color threads.
■Fukikaeshi (side neck guard): Niwa Sujikai Mon
The Fukikaeshi (吹き返し) is both ends of a helmet. It protects the face from swords and also shows its beautiful workmanship. Family crests are sometimes designed on this part, as seen in this work.
You would find a golden crest on the Fukikaeshi part, and also it is designed everywhere on this armor. This crest is categorized as the Sujikai Mon (直違文) and is called the Niwa Sujikai Mon (丹羽直違文). Its design comes from the shape of Sangi (算木, tool for calculation) and Ki (木, wood). It is an X-shaped crest made by intersecting two straight lines and is also called the Chigai Bou (違い棒) or Nihon Bashi Uchi Chigai (二本箸打ち違い). Niwa Nagahide (丹羽 長秀, 1535-1585) used this family crest. He served the famous Oda Nobunaga (織田 信長, 1534-1582) and supported his efforts to unify the world. He was one of Nobunaga’s vassals who played an important role.
■Menpo (face guard): Hanbō
This type of half mask is called the Hanbō (半頬) and was popular as it was easy to breathe compared to the full mask that covers his nose. The purpose of Menpo was not only to protect Samurai’s face. But also to hide their true faces so that their psychological states were not affected.
■Do (cuirass): Okegawa Nimai Do
Nimai Do is a kind of cuirass for Tousei Gusoku (当世具足, developed armor style). Nimai Do (二枚胴) was named after the fact that Nimai (二枚) means two plates, and Do (胴) means torso in Japanese. Instead of using a large number of small lamellar plates called Kozane (小札), this cuirass used large iron plates riveted.
The name Okegawa (桶側) came from the fact that the shape of this cuirass resembles the Gawa (側, side) of Oke (桶, Japanese wooden tub). The body armor part can be separated into two pieces and connected with a hinge. Generally, a hinge is located on the left side, and you could tighten a cuirass on the right side. The Okegawa Do was relatively easy to make and had high strength; therefore, it is said this style of cuirass became popular in the latter half of the Muromachi (室町, 1336-1573) period.
■Decoration on body armor:
■Kusazuri (skirt of plates attached to the cuirass):
Black lacquered iron Kusazuri laced with navy threads.
■Kote (armored sleeves):
Intricate iron chain mail with silk.
■Haidate (thigh protection):
The Haidate (佩楯) is a thigh guard. Small rectangular black iron plates are attached to the cloth.
■Suneate (shin guard):
The Kikkou (亀甲, turtle’s shell) pattern is used for the cloth of the Suneate (脛当). It is a continuous geometric pattern connecting regular hexagons up and down. A theory says that this design was brought from China and the Korean Peninsula during the Asuka (592-710) and Nara periods (710-794). A proverb says turtles live long lives; therefore, turtle and turtle’s shell patterns represent longevity. In addition, as this continuous hexagonal pattern does not get out of its shape, it is said people wished for eternal prosperity by using this design.
■Kacchu Hitsu (armor box)
The same as the armor, the Niwa Sujikai Mon is designed on this armor box.
Certification: Kicho Shiryo Certificate (No. 1289)
On May 14th 2023, this armor was appraised as a Kicho Shiryo by The Association for the Research and Preservation of Japanese Helmets and Armor, which is the most trusted Japanese armor appraiser in Japan. This association is also known as Nihon Katchu Bugu Kenkyu Hozonkai (日本甲冑武具研究保存会). Kicho Shiryo (貴重資料) means special rare article. It is ranked as the fourth highest of five rankings.
The paper mentions the armor was made in the late Edo period (late 18th- mid 19th century). You can receive this original authentication paper.
An English translation of the certificate is available on request. We won’t charge any additional fee.
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【How To Preserve Antique Samurai Armor】
Dryness, humidity, and bad ventilation might deteriorate the condition of antique Samurai armor. The best temperature to preserve Samurai armor is around 20℃ in Celsius, and humidity should be about 60%. Direct sunlight should be avoided. We recommend storing armors in a room with good ventilation. If you like to display them outside the boxes for a prolonged time, we suggest using a glass case in order for dust not to be accumulated easily. In case you don’t use a glass case, please make sure to regularly dust off from the armor by using a soft brush made of delicate cloth or brush for painting.
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