Antique Mid Edo Period Samurai Armor Tokubetsu Kicho Shiryo Certificate (A-32)
Period: the middle of the Edo Period
appraised by The Association for the Research and Preservation of Japanese Helmets and Armor
■Helmet bowl: Suji 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 warriors 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 (室町後期, 1467-1573) to the Edo period (江戸, 1603-1868). 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.
Here we would like to introduce to you a little bit more about the history of Kabutos. Before the Kawari Kabuto’s production, the Suji Kabuto (筋兜) appeared during the Nanbokuchou (南北朝, 1337-1392) period. At that time, the tactic was gradually changed from the piggyback fight style to battle with the Tachi (太刀) sword and the Naginata (薙刀, Japanese halberd) on the ground. Therefore, there was a rise in demand for the weight-saving of the Kabuto. Also, in order to turn the attack by swords, a new type of structure was invented: the Suji Kabuto (筋兜). Its form slides swords’ attacks when weapons hit the Kabuto. It is said that the production of the Suji Kabuto prospered in the Muromachi (室町, 1336-1573) period. We estimate this Kabuto is one of these Suji Kabutos made in that tendency in the Edo period. It has 62 stripes in this Kabuto, meaning 62 small iron plates are connected. It is called Rokuju Ni Ken Suji Kabuto (六十二間筋兜). Rokuju Ni means 62 in Japanese.
■Shikoro (side neck guard):
Iron plates laced with navy threads.
■Fukikaeshi (side neck guard): Ichimoji Mon
The Fukikaeshi (吹き返し) is both ends of a Kabuto. It protects the face from swords and also shows its beautiful workmanship. Family crests are sometimes designed on this part, as seen on this Kabuto.
The motif of this family crest is called the Ichimoji Mon (一文字紋), which is categorized as the Moji Mon (文字紋). It is a crest that a Japanese letter is designed. It was born from faith and auspiciousness and was widely used because it had a good sense of stability, and the meaning was easy to understand. The Moji Mon of this family crest is the character “一.” It is pronounced as “Ichi” in Japanese, which is why it is called the Ichimoji Mon. The letter “一” has several meanings, such as “one” and “first” in Japanese. One is the origin of numbers, and it is said to have the meaning of the root and origin of things. In addition, this character could be read as “Katsu.” In Japanese, there is a word “Katsu (勝つ, win)”; by reading the letter in this way, Samurai warriors associated the “一” character with the idea of “Teki-ni Katsu (敵に勝つ, victory to the enemy).” And they came to this Moji Mon for their family crests. A theory says that the “一” letter was incorporated into family crests because of the significance of the word and because it could be easily drawn as a banner on the battlefield. Understandably, this design is seen on this Kabuto.
■Menpo (face guard): Ressei Menpo
This type of Menpo is called the Ressei Menpo (烈勢面頬). It represents the angry face to intimidate enemies. There are many types of Menpo, depending on their shape or appearance. 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 unaffected. Short beards are attached to this Menpo. Thanks to this effect, even a young soldier would have been able to produce the majestic appearance of a middle-aged Samurai.
■ Maedate (front decoration): Mikaduki Mon
The Maedate (前立, front decoration) of this helmet imitates a Mikaduki (三日月, crescent moon). We imagine that its golden color caught people’s eyes on the battlefields. According to a theory, the crescent moon design of the Maetate comes from the Myouken (妙見) belief. This religion was born in India. It was mixed with the Polestar belief and was brought to Japan from the continent. In the Myouken belief, the moon and stars were the symbols of faith. The Myouken Bosatsu (妙見菩薩, 菩薩 means Bodhisattva) fulfills all wishes such as fertility of rich harvest, peace, the prosperity of the clan, healing of illness, longevity, success in business, traffic safety, academic achievement, marriage, etcetera. Reasonably, the moon motif for the Maetate was popular among Samurai warriors. The former owner of this armor might have had shown his faith by wearing this Kabuto. One of the famous Samurai who used this type of Maedate was Date Masamune (伊達 政宗, 1567-1636). He took over the family estate at the age of 17 and contributed to the prosperity of the Touhoku (東北) region.
■Dō (cuirass): Okegawa Gomai Dō
Gomai Dō is a kind of cuirass for Tousei Gusoku (当世具足, developed armor style). Gomai Dō (五枚胴) was named after the fact that Gomai (五枚) means five plates and Dō (胴) means torso in Japanese. Instead of using many 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). In this style, the body armor part generally could be separated into two pieces and connected with a hinge. Usually, a hinge is located on the left side, and you could tighten a cuirass on the right side. The Okegawa Dō 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.
■Kusazuri (skirt of plates attached to the cuirass):
Lacquered iron Kusazuri laced with navy threads. The cords for the Odoshi (縅, a technique for armor tying boards together with cords such as leather or thread) are relatively in good condition, so each plate is tied without coming off.
■Kote (armored sleeves):
Intricate iron chain mail with silk.
■Haidate (thigh protection):
The Haidate (佩楯) is a thigh guard. Chain mail and iron plates are attached to its 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 (飛鳥, 592-710) and Nara (奈良, 710-794) periods. A proverb says turtles live long lives; therefore, turtle and turtle 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.
■Gattari (Sashimono holder):
If you focus on the back of this armor, you will find a square-shaped metal frame attached. It is a gear called the Gattari (合当理) that supports the upper part of the Sashimono (指物, a frag or decorative sign installed at the back of armor). And the Uketsutsu (受筒)/ Sashidutsu (指筒) is a tube to store a Sashimono. Samurai warriors judged their sides and enemies on the battlefields by checking the motifs designed for flags. Especially in group battles with infantry, this method was very effective because they could instantly identify affiliations.
■Kacchu-Hitsu (armor box):
You would find a golden mark is designed on sides of this box. This family crest is called the Umebachi Mon (梅鉢紋), which is derived from the Ume (梅, Japanese apricot blossom) pattern. The Ume pattern profoundly relates to the Tenjin (天神) faith. This belief honors the soul of Sugawara no Michizane (菅原道真, 845-903), and he cherished this flower. Michizane excelled in academics and was appointed and promoted by the emperor back then. However, other aristocrats envied his promotions, and Michizane was demoted Kyushu (九州) region, far from the capital. And he passed away two years later. After his death, the capital suffered great natural disasters. And people who opposed Michizane had unfortunate experiences. People thought that his spirit caused these things, and the capital was terrified at that time. One day, when such a situation continued, Michizane possessed a person and demanded to enshrine himself. The imperial court accepted his request and built a shrine in Kyushu to appease his spirit. This was managed by the Sugawara family, a family of scholars. And Michizane, who excelled in studies during his lifetime, came to be worshiped as the god of learning. Because of this background, it is said that many family crests with the Ume designs were used in the Kinki and Kita-Kyushu regions.
Certification: Tokubetsu Kicho Shiryo Certificate
On June 8th 1975, this armor was appraised as a Tokubetsu 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. Tokubestu Kicho Shiryo means special rare article. It is ranked as the third highest of five rankings.
The paper mentions the armor was made in the middle of the Edo period (mid 17th-mid 18th). 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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【Antique Japanese Armor and Export process】
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【How to make sure the condition】
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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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