Object Title

Armour (tosei gusoku)

Armour (tosei gusoku)



Object Number



Purchased at Christies Auction House, New York. 4 March 1968, lot 229.

Physical Description

The helmet is a 24 plate maru hoshi bachi of russet iron having 11 rivets of graded sizes on each plate with a further rivet in each column on the koshimaki. The front, side and rear plates are wider than the rest, overlaid with gilded plates and silver shinodare. At the base of these overlaid plates is a shaped silver plate covered with engraved karakusa. The gilded plates at the sides are delicately pierced and have sacred tama in the design. At the rear the plate is plain, except for two shinodare and a kasa jirushi no kan in shakudo with the owner's mon in gilt on the face. At the apex is an elaborate tehen kanamono in silver, copper, shakudo and gilt, with on one layer, blue enamel. The design of this kanamono also incorporates a sacred tama. The almost vertical leather covered peak is all but obscured by an elaborate kuwagata dai in gilt with mon headed rivets in shakudo and gilt. A pair of gilded kuwagata survive but the central maedate is missing. Attached to the koshimaki by partly gilded shakudo rivets decorated with mon, is a three lame o manju shikoro of black lacquered kozane laced in purple and green. On the hishinui ita are two rows of red cross-knots and a row of uname toji in varigated braid. The shikoro, like other parts of the armour is decorated with pierced and gilded kanamono of karakusa within a nanako frame.
The fukigayeshi are gold lacquered and formed by turning back only the upper lame of the shikoro. They are partly covered with leathers and have the mon in partly gilded shakudo.
The mask is a ressei men of russet iron with prominent chin, iron teeth, a hair moustache, elaborately embossed ears and fitted with a large pierced yadome. To this is attached a two lame tare of scales laced like the shikoro and provided with a ring for an agemaki in the centre of the upper lame.
The nodowa comprises a black lacquered iron neck-ring lacquered gold underneath, the gold showing around the neck by reason of the rolled out edge. Attached by leather are two rows of black lacquered scales laced in purple and green, the hishinui ita with red cross-knots and varigated uname toji like the other parts of the armour. The upper row of scales carries kanamono fastened by shakudo and gilt mon-headed rivets. Gilt kanamono are applied to the corners of the rows of scales, that at the lower left corner of the upper row is missing. In the centre of the upper row is a shakudo and gilt ring.
The do is a hon kozane kebiki laced ni mai do laced in purple with the lowest row of the gessan laced in green. The upper plates are covered in leathers and bordered by gilt fukurin. Lavish gilt kanamono are applied in all the usual places by shakudo and gilt mon-headed rivets. At the rear, there is a saki-ita that carried the large agemaki for the sode, but it is rigidly fastened. The watagami are provided with shoji no ita and small laced kohire. The collar is of kikko covered with green woolen cloth with red cross-knots and blue sewing.The do has gessan of seven sections of five rows of scales each with kanamono on the hishinui ita.
The sode are hira sode of modest size, of true scales laced in purple except for the row above the hishinui ita which is in green. The kogai kanamono are attached by a single mon headed rivet to the fourth plate.
The kote are tsutsugote of the finest quality. The metalwork is entirely of russet iron and comprises a kanmuri ita in three parts connected by mail and transversely fluted. To these are attached five rows of corrugate rectangular plates covering the upper arm. The forearm is protected by five fluted plates connected by integral hinged. The small rather angular tekko are fluted over the back of the hand but smooth over the fingers. They carry the shakudo and gilt mon mounted on a diamond shaped gilt support. The mail is extended around the inside of the arm. All of the toggles are of gilded metal, or even gold, of mokko shaped with a nanako centre. The sleeves are sewn onto a red brocade with green and blue Chinese design bordered by a green and gold thread edging with three colour piping. They are provided with armpit guards of brocade with mail sewn inside.
The haidate are of black lacquered kawari zane sewn onto brocade and laced in purple and green like the other parts of the armour. These are sewn onto brocade hakama and surrounded by a frill of red and white crepe silk. The front upper portion is reinforced and decorated with leathers, pipings and elaborate sewing in purple thread. Attached to the transverse leather above the scales, on each side of the central division, is a loop of red silk to which is attached a red cord ending in a tassel. These are threaded through a shakudo ring attached to the second row of scales immediately below the cord attachment point. The purpose of these cords is unknown but they are obviously meant to be tied together - possibly to limit the separation of the two armourered sections. Inside the legs of the hakama are sewn tubes of green crepe silk that hang below the lower edge forming an extention that would cover the knees and hang to about mid calf. These are provided with red draw-strings in red silk braid.
The suneate are of russet iron plates hinged together and decorated with applied iron cut-outs in geometric designs and plant forms . Laced to these in green silk are three plates forming the knee-guard, the central one having an applied demon's face in russet iron, the eyes lacquered. These faces overlay the lacing so must have been applied during assembly. The plates are sewn onto the same brocade as the other pieces of armour, whilst the inside the knee-guard is gilded leather.
The kogake consist of a main black lacquered plate covering the front of the foot, extended by smaller plates, attached by hinges, that wrap around the back of the foot where they fasten by a gilt turn button. Inside the main plates are covered with black velvet and extended upwards with brocade and decorative leathers.
The hakama are Kobakama of heavy dark green brocade decorated with flowers and pecious objects. They are lined with white cotton and have ties at the waist of the same fabric. They are gathered at the bottom and edged with a strip of brocade.
Accompanying the armour is an eboshi of black silk with a white tie sewn to the lower edge. Inside is sewn a copy of the Daily Express dated 1965. This was probably made in the Tower for the exhibition held in that year.
Accompanying the armour are two matching armour boxes of the usual rectangular shape. They are of wood covered with thin transparent lacquer and provided with black iron furniture.


KoteWeight1050 g
HelmetWeight3350 g
MaskWeight600 g
KogakeWeight700 g
SuneateWeight700 g

Inscriptions and Marks



Places Japan


This is an armour of the finest quality made for a high ranking bushi, probably in the 19th century. Although it is not signed, the mask has a characteristing tear, or comma, shaped concavity on each jaw - a feature found on masks produced by Myochin smiths working near Edo in the early 1800's [see L.J. Anderson 1968 'Japanese Armour - An illustrated guide to the work of the Myochin and Saotome families from the 15th to the 20th century' Arms and Armour Press p51,55,59]. One of this group, Munekane, left a diary in which he records some of his productions and it is known that he produced copies of O-yoroi and other early armours for wealthy clients. The owner of this armour cannot be definitely identified, the mon of two crossed feathers was used by many different families. This variation has small circular marks on the feathers.