08 September 2018

Pictures from Japan of Samurai armor

During our trip to Tokyo last week we visited a couple of the museums in town, among them the small but very informative Samurai Museum. This museum had the most information in English compared to the rest of the museums we visited, and there was also a pretty good English tour for free every hour. I highly recommend checking this place out if you are in Tokyo and interested in history.

We also went to the Tokyo National museum, which had a large segment on Samurai culture, swords and armor (actually a LOT of swords). The information in English written next to the exhibits was not as good, but you can get an English audio guide at the entrance.

Some interesting stuff learned from the Samurai museum was the composition of the Samurai armor. You were able to get as close as you wanted, but not touch, all the armors on display, to really see how they were crafted and fitted together. The face masks being held in place with a string beneath the cheek and having a small hole beneath the chin to drain sweat during summer months was an interesting detail.

So was learning that most Japanese at the time were only about 1.5 meters tall, and the tallest people which also had the biggest warriors came from the westernmost island of Kyushu where people ate meat.

Another interesting trivia was about the introduction of firearms by European nations. The Japanese bought two handguns from the Portuguese, one gun to be used for testing and one to be picked apart so that it could be copied by blacksmiths. According to the guide at the museum there is a story that two children were traded for one of the guns, though this has been unconfirmed. A fellow visitor asked if the Samurai thought it was dishonorable to use firearms. The guide replied that the armament of troops was pretty much up to each Daimyo. Some used it others did not, but with the introduction of firearms the Japanese had to rethink their armor which started introducing cuirass style breastplates. The increase of guns manufactured in Japan was huge and peaked by the end of the civil wars and the beginning of the Edo period which would last some 250 years. During that time, Japan had a very long period of relative peace, and the amount of guns dropped significantly. 

Also there were some interesting helmet designs. In the picture with the 4 helmets in a row, the rightmost helmet is not a warrior helmet but actually a firefighter helmet. The idea of large ornate features was to make the Samurai seem taller to scare his opponents, the same went for beard and moustache features on the face masks. The reason for the shaved heads was so that the helmets would fit better and not feel as warm. Also an interesting detail in a Samurai painting showing the victory of the Tokugawa clan in a war between eastern and western was the lack of helmets worn by the troops. The tour guide explained that the painted thought it was too much work and grew tired of painting detailed helmets, which is why most of the troops were shown bare headed.

The Samurai armor was made up of lots of tiny metal pieces tied together with strings. The full weight of a suit of armor IIRC was about 30kg.

Also, sorry about the picture quality. The lightning in the Samurai museum was not the best for taking pictures.


  1. Thanks for posting these. Worth looking at...I may have to game Mikata ga Hara this afternoon. :)

  2. Happy you liked it guys. I will soon post pictures of some Imperial Japanese Army stuff as well.


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