Object Title

Face mask (mempo) - Mempo

Face mask (mempo) - Mempo



Object Number



Presented to King James I by Tokugawa Hidetada in 1613, via Captain Saris of the East India Company. On display in the Tower by at least 1662.

Physical Description

The half mask (mempo) has a fixed nose piece and a small throat guard of four iron plates laced with purple silk. The teeth are gilt, and there is small, brown, modern moustache and beard.


MempoDepth135 mm
MempoHeight205 mm
MempoWeight0.44 kg
MempoWidth175 mm

Bibliographic References

J. Hewitt, Official catalogue of the Tower Armouries, London, 1859, no. xv.472, p.113;

Viscount Dillon, Illustrated guide to the Armouries, London, 1910, no. xv.604, p.37.

C.J. ffoulkes, Inventory and survey of the Armouries of the Tower of London, London, 1916, vol. I, no. II.127, pp. 139-40.

C. Beard, 'Some Tower armour pedigrees', Connoisseur, 87, 1931, pp. 162-3.

P. Hammond, Royal Armouries official guide, London, 1986, p. 63.

O. Impey, 'Japan and the west: the first hundred and fifty years', The Grosvenor House Antiques Fair, London, 12-22 June 1991, pp. 12-19, at p. 15, fig. 3.


On 18 April 1611 Captain John Saris of the East India Company set out from England on the 'Clove' to negotiate for trade rights with Japan. In 'Servant of the Shogun' by Richard Tames, Paul Norbury Publications, Tenderton, Kent, Saris is quoted from his diary in which he states that 'he (Matsuura Shigenobu, or Ho-in) bestowed upon me a fair armour, which he said he would give at this present for that he held it of some esteem, having worn it in the wars of Corea'. In 1613, amongst the lavish exchanges of goods which accompanied the negotiations, 'the young king at Edo [Tokugawa Hidetada] made us present of two entire suits of Japan armour, finely varnished, and a long sword and Waggedash ['wakizashi'] for my self'. Saris' autograph account is recorded in J. Harris, 'Navigantium et Itinerantium Bibliotheca', London, 1625, I, lib. II, cap. xxiii, p. 127, also repr. 1764. Saris returned to Plymouth on 27 September 1614. One of the two armours appeared in the sale inventory of King Charles I, 1649-50, 'one Indian box with an Indian armor in it, a head peece, a vizard, back and brest, two sleeves with gantletts, one placard for ye brest & one for ye back, two pieces for ye thighs & legs & three small brass plates' (see A. MacGregor, 'The late King's goods', London, 1989, pp. 353-4). This appears to be the blue and red laced 'domaru' on loan from the Royal Collection (no. AL.27 11), also by Iwai Yozaemon, and it was sold to Bass for £10.

In the 'View and Survey' of 1660 was recorded an 'armour sent to his now Majesty, Charles the second, by the great Mogull, consisting of backe, breast, taces headpiece, vizor and pieces of the greaves'. This appears to be the present red and purple armour. It was placed on display and excited considerable public interest. In July 1662, 'many persons of quality went to the armoury in the Tower of London to see that most noble and strong defence for the body, the suit of armour sent from the emperor Mougul, which suit was presented to His Majesty the King of England' (Thomas Rugge, 'Mercurius Politicus Redivivus', 1659-72). In 1688 a valuation of £5 was placed upon the armour. By 1972 the armour had fallen into a dreadful state of disrepair, so that it had been too bad to take part in the 'Exhibition of Japanese Armour' of 1965, and it was sent to Japan to be restored by the armourer Hiromichi Miura, through the generosity of Mitsukoshi Ltd.

Both armours are by Iwai Yozaemon of Nambu, one of the most acclaimed of the Iwai, and the personal armourer of Tokugawa Ieyasu. They form part of a series of presentation armours by the same maker, all of 'domaru' type, and in an archaic 15th century style, which may be seen in a number of European collections. Four are in the Musée de l'Armee, Paris (L. Robert, 'Le Musée d'Artillerie en 1889', Vol. 2, Paris, 1890, nos G.751-4). Two are in Vienna (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Sammlungen Schloss Ambras, 'Die Rustkammer', Vienna, 1981, Abb. 31, p. 82, nos PA.586-7). One of the two royal gift armours in Copenhagen is signed by Iwai Yozaemon (B. Dam Mikkelsen and T. Lundaek, 'Ethnographic objects in the Royal Danish Kunstkammer 1650-1800', Copenhagen, 1980, pp. 247-8, nos EAb31-2). Two more are in the Real Armeria, Madrid (G. C. Lacaci, 'Armeria del Palacio Real de Madrid', Madrid, 1987, nos E-133-4, pp. 158-163; El Conde de Valencia de Don Juan, 'Catalogo Historico-Descriptivo de la Real Armeria', Madrid, 1898, pp. 170-1). Both of these were damaged in the fire of 1884 in the Real Armeria, but one (E-133 with the kote now shown with E-134) was illustrated in its original state by Gaspard Sensi in Achille Jubinal, 'La Armeria Real', Paris, n.d., Vol. 2, no. 13.
In the Tower Remain for 1857 there are the following two entries: No.55 Effigy in Japanese Armour consisting of a cap or helmet of iron and a body armour formed of laminated plates of horn and iron unified by silk braid curiously interwoven. Demi jambs of iron armed with sword with scabbard and belt and a spear silver mounted. [This appears to be the armour now in the Royal Collection]
No 56 Effigy in Japanese armour differing but little from No 55. Armed with a sword only. Guantlets long. [The fact that this is described as having full length kote identifies this as being XXVIA.1 which had odagote before it was sent to Miura for relacing.]. RC2: Permission to lend required from the sovereign.