Haramaki : Everything you need to know about this infantry Japanese Armor


What is Haramaki (腹巻)

Haramaki is a type of Samurai armor that originated in the late Kamakura period, it’s a simplified and more mobile compare with other types. The name Haramaki 腹巻 literally means “Wrapping Belly”, because the wraps around the torso.

Antique Haramaki

History of Haramaki (腹巻)

Ancient Japanese Haramaki armor

Haramaki is believed originated from late 12th century in Kamakura period. The earliest visual evidence of Haramaki can be found in the Ban Dainagon Ekotoba scrolls (伴大納言絵詞). During this period, warfare was changing from horse-mounted archery to infantry group battles, Oyoroi was no longer the most suitable armor, just like Yari (Spear) is replacing Yumi (Bow), new types of armors are replacing Oyoroi. Such as the doumaru, haraate, and haramaki. These armors were designed to provide protection while allowing greater freedom of movement, essential for the changing dynamics of battle.

Haramaki was mainly use by foot soldiers and lower ranking samurai, offer minimum protection mainly for the torso part, without other gears like Kabuto, Kote etc. As infantry battles became more common during the Nanboku-cho period, Haramaki became popular with higher-ranking mounted samurai as well. To suit their needs, the armor was equipped with Kabuto, Kote, Suneate and more decorations.

During the Nanboku-cho and Muromachi periods, the haramaki became a main type of Japanese armor alongside the doumaru but lost popularity with the introduction of tosei gusoku armor in the Azuchi-Momoyama period. In the Edo period, revival-style haramaki were made mainly as decoration items.

An interest fact, the name "haramaki" was originally referred to what was later known as "domaru" in the ancient Japan, but they were reversed by Edo-period scholars and have remained that way in modern times.

Features of Haramaki (腹巻)

Haramaki armor was made from small plates called kozane. These plates were typically made of leather and iron, providing both flexibility and strength. The plates were coated with lacquer. Some of the high-quality haramaki even gilded or covered with samegawa (Rayskin) for added decoration and prestige.

The main feature of Haramaki is easy to put on and take off, lighter than the doumaru, and allowed for greater mobility. The haramaki was worn by pulling it over the body from the back and fastening it with a single cord at the neck. This created a gap in the middle, making it less secure. To fix this, a protective back plate was added during the Muromachi period, especially in high-quality haramaki. However, because this back plate implied turning one's back to the enemy, it was mockingly called the "coward's plate 臆病板. ”

Compare with Oyoroi, Haramaki has more sections of Kusazuri. Oyoroi was designed primarily for mounted archery and has only 4 sections of Kusazuri, and Haramaki usually has 7 sections of Kusazuri, allowing for a full range of motion. This segmented design ensures that the samurai could move freely and easily during combat, whether on foot or mounted on a horse.

Haramaki was economical to produce, with lower material costs compared to Doumaru. It used cheaper materials like Iyo-zane or Ita-zane instead of traditional kozane scales.

Major Parts of Haramaki

Major Parts of Haramaki
Shoulder band (Wadakami - 肩上): The flexible leather used and the shape of the shoulders are similar to the domaru. However, the haramaki lacks the loops for attaching side plates (gyoyo - 杏葉).

Fastening Cord (Hikiawase-no-o - 引合緒): Haramaki is fastened at the back, so the fastening cord is attached to the side plates (押付板).

Chest Plate (Munaita - 胸板): The chest plate of the haramaki is almost the same as that of the domaru.

Side Plates (Oshitsuke-no-ita - 押付板): The materials and shape are similar to those of the domaru, but the haramaki's side plates are split due to its back fastening design.

Vertical Plates (Tateage - 立挙): The materials and shape are also similar to those of the domaru. However, the haramaki's vertical plates are split at the back.

Side Plates (Wakiita - 脇板): Since the haramaki is fastened at the back, the same type of side plates is used on both sides. Their materials and shape are similar to the non-split side plate on the left side of the domaru.

Long Side Plates (Nagakawa - 長側): Like the domaru, these plates are made in one continuous piece. However, because the haramaki fastens at the back, the plates are symmetrical.

Waist Cord (Dosaki-no-o / Kurijime-no-o - 胴先緒 / 繰締緒): The waist cord is attached to the end of the armor (dosaki - 胴先) on the back. Each cord crosses at the back, wraps around to the front, and is tied there. Unlike the domaru, the haramaki does not have rings (kann - 鐶) for threading the cords, making it simpler.

Kusazuri (草摺): The haramaki's kusazuri usually has seven sections, unlike the eight sections of the domaru. There is one section at the front, three on each side, and none at the back. The back is covered by an extra kusazuri section attached to the back plate.

Back Plate (Seita - 背板): The back plate was introduced in the late Muromachi period when close combat was common. It was made of small scales (kozane - 小札) and covered the gap at the back. It was attached to the armor with clasps (kohaze - 鞐) and linked to the shoulder loops (wana - 綰). Also known as okubyo-ita 臆病板, means coward's plate, because this back plate suggested turning one's back to the enemy.

Cord Loops (Agemaki - 総角): Since the main body of the haramaki does not have cord loops, they are attached to the back plate (背板).

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