Object Title

Armour (o-yoroi)

Armour (o-yoroi)



Object Number



Purchased at auction, Phillps, 27 February 1992 lot 68.

Physical Description

Helmet (kabuto):
The helmet bowl with prominent rivets (hoshi bachi) is of hemispherical (maru) form and is probably of 24 plates. The basic black lacquered bowl is overlaid at the front, back and in three places on each side, known as 'eight sides white', with silvered copper plates which are themselves overlaid by gilded ornamental strips (shinodare), with three strips mounted over the front plate and two elsewhere. Each shinodare is held in place by 12 conical headed rivets, the same number being on the other plates. At the base of each of the black lacquered plates is an ornamental plate (igaki), held by a gilt rivet. The whole of the strip forming the base of the helmet bowl (koshimaki) is also overlaid with a gilt plate studded with rivets. The hole in the crown of the helmet bowl is fitted with a large flat gilt ornamental fitting (tehen kanamono) with the lowest plate embossed like the other metal fittings (kanamono) on the armour with plum blossoms and insects, primarily butterflies. The vertical peak is covered with a stencilled leather surrounded by red leather and overlaid by an elaborate horned crest ( kuwagata dai) in the form of an oni (ogre or demon) head with glass eyes. The horns (kuwagata) are of elongated form and the copper gilt is engraved overall with a feather pattern. .
Attached to the bowl is a deep conical neckguard (shikoro) of five rows of round headed scales laced with red braid. The upper four lames are bent outward to form projectiing turn-backs (fukigayeshi), decorated with leather in the same way as the peak and fitted with a kanamono at the top and bottom outer corners. The lowest lame is shorter than the others and has five kanamono spaced around the lower edge. The shikoro is attached to the bowl by rivets that pass through kanamono in four places, each fitted on top of a shaped silvered plate. Inside, the bowl has been filled to smooth the construction and lined with stencilled leather glued to the surface. A red helmet cord of braided silk is tied in three places.

Cuirass (do):
Is of standard o-yoroi or 'great armour' style, laced in red like the remainder of the armour and with the front covered in leather stencilled with the deity Fudo Myo and his two acolytes. There are gilded metal fittings (kanamono) around the thigh guards (kusazuri) and bordering the top plate of the do (mune ita), the latter superimposed on silvered plates.

Accompanying the armour is one shoulder guard (sode), a pair of sleeves (kote) made in imitation of those supposedly belonging to the medieval warrior Yoshitsune, a guard to protect the right fastening of the shoulder straps/arm pit (sendan no ita) and a guard to protect the left fastening of the shoulder straps/arm pit (kyubi no ita).

Shoulder guard (sode):
The single shoulder guard (sode) is made of six rows of small scales (kozane) laced together with red silk and variegated ('woodpecker') braid borders. The lower plate has three metal fittings (kanamono) decorated with butterflies and plum blossom. The upper plate has three kanamono decorated with insects, plum blossom and cobwebs. The elongated kanamono positioned a third of the way down the sode is decorated with plum blossom and a bush warbler and has a silk tying cord attached.

The solid top plate is covered with stencilled leather with dragons and Chinese lions (shishi).

The sode has silk tie cords at front and rear and doe skin cord at the centre.

Sendan no ita:
The sendan no ita is of three rows of lamellae; the upper one riveted to a solid plate covered with stencilled leather. All are laced to match the rest of the armour with matching kanemono.

Kubi no ita:
The kubi no ita is formed of a solid plate lined inside and out with stencilled leather and with a brass border. Each is fitted with a pair of red silk cords for attachment to the shoulder straps.


Dimensions: Whole armour height as mounted: 1110mm Weight: The weight of the helmet is 6.0 kg. Sode: height 450 mm, width 330 mm, weight 2.5kg Sendan no ita: Height 255mm, width 130mm, 625g Kubi no ita: Height 260mm, width 85mm, 340g

Inscriptions and Marks



Places Japan

Bibliographic References

Yamakami Hachiro, Nihon katchu no shin kenkyu, Tokyo, 1929, p. 392, fig, 71.


The armour is a copy of one of the two National Treasure armours at the Kasuga Taisha, Nara, the red laced plum blossom and bush warbler armour. Full details of all the components of the original armour are published in Y. Sasama, Nihon Katchu Bugu Jiten, Tokyo, 1997. A private communication from Nishioka Fumio, an armour maker / restorer of Kawasaki, shows that the armour was made by Miura Sukeichi in 1929 (Showas 4th year). His reconstructions are illustrated in Katchu Bugu Kenkyu 1974 (No 31) p.4.under the title 'The Posthumous work of Miura Sukeichi - Master Armour Maker'. His last production is dated 1946.

A magnet shows that the construction includes iron scales alternating with rawhide ones in the proper manner. It is interesting that each kanamono has worked into the design, buds or the backs of flowers, that might represent a five stars mon. Several of the kanamono are now missing, That on the right front of the do and in particular, those that once covered the fore-arms on the kote. One of the kanamono covering the elbow plate, hijigane, is separate. Much of the lacing, and some of the red stencilled leather of this armour has been painted with red paint.