How to wear samurai armor - Correct Order explained
Samurai armor, an iconic symbol of Japan’s rich history, is a marvel of ancient engineering and craftsmanship. Its intricate design, combined with its formidable functionality, has captivated the imaginations of people worldwide. The armor is not just a protective gear, but a work of art, reflecting the Samurai’s status, personality, and even the era in which they lived. But have you ever wondered how these warriors managed to put on such complex and heavy armor? How did they prepare themselves for battle, encased in layers of lacquered leather and iron? In this article, we will unravel the mystery behind wearing Samurai armor, a process that was as ceremonial as it was practical. So, let’s find out how samurai put on their iconic armor
First of all, wearing Samurai armor was not typically a one-man job. The armor was complex and had many parts, so it was often necessary for a squire or an assistant to help the Samurai put on the armor correctly. This ensured that all armor parts were secured properly for maximum protection and mobility.
The process of putting on Samurai armor was quite specific and followed a certain order. Here’s how it was done:
Part 1 : Under the armor
There are some traditional Japanese garment you should wear if you want a fully Immersive experience. But in modern days, it's totally fine to wear something comfortable and mobile. Here we still list the traditional pieces:
Fundoshi 褌 (tie): This was the first piece of clothing to be put on. It was a type of traditional Japanese undergarment, often worn for festivals and martial arts.
Shitagi 下着 and Obi 紧衣带(shirt and belt): The Shitagi was a type of undergarment, similar to a shirt. The Obi was a belt used to secure the Shitagi and later, the armor.
Hakama 袴 (trousers): These were the trousers worn by the Samurai. They were loose and comfortable, allowing for a wide range of movement.
Tabi 足袋 (slippers): These were traditional Japanese socks, usually made of cotton and worn with sandals.
Kyahan 腳絆 (leggings): These were protective coverings for the lower leg, often made of cloth or leather.
Waraji (sandals): Traditional straw sandals worn for better grip and comfort.
Part 2 : Begin to wear the armor (Tosei Gusoku)
Now we have prepared ourself, all dressed up, it's time to begin wearing the armor piece by piece. There are many types of samurai armor, we will begin with Tosei Gusoku.
1.Suneate (shin guards): These were shin guards, designed to protect the lower legs. Put on the suneate starting from the left foot for an even fit, then fasten the cords firmly but not too tightly to avoid discomfort. Remember to neatly tuck away any extra cord to prevent it from getting in the way.
Ensure the suneate does not press painfully against the ankles, especially when kneeling. A kikkou kinpaku (tortoise shell gold wrap) design is often more comfortable than metal stand-up collars.
2.Haidate (cuisses): These were thigh guards, designed to protect the upper legs. Donning the haidate while standing, positioning it around your waist. loop the strings from the back to the front and tie them firmly. It's recommended to tie the knot on the inside of the haidate, to prevent it from coming undone.
3. Kote (armoured sleeves): These were armored sleeves that protected the arms. When putting on kote, it's recommended to start with the left hand. This traditional approach ensures a systematic and balanced fitting. Tie the Kote might be difficult if you don't have someone to help. Make sure it's tight and remian stability.
4.Do (cuirass): This was the main piece of armor, protecting the torso and abdomen. While it is possible to wear the dou alone, it is ideal to have the assistance of at least one other person. Assistance ensures proper fitting and ease of wear.
If you must wear the do alone, a traditional method involves kneeling with the left knee raised and the right knee touching the ground. This position facilitates easier self-donning of the armor.
Tosei Gusoku Do often features a two-piece design with hinges on the sides, making it relatively easier to put on compared to other styles. Step-by-Step Procedure:
Open the right side of the dou and slide into it sideways.
Secure the kohaze (fasteners) at the shoulder area.
Tie the hikiawase no o (drawstring) on the right side.
Ensure everything is snug and properly aligned for complete wear.
5.Sode (shoulder guards): These were large rectangular pieces of armor that protected the shoulders. You can attach it on the Do to save time wearing them separately.
6.Daisho (pair of swords): The Samurai’s primary weapons, usually a Katana and a Wakizashi. Insert them to your Obi, remember if it's Uchigatana (katana), you should wear it with edge upward, if it's Tachi, you should wear them with edge downward.
7.Menpo and Kabuto (mask and helmet): The Menpo was a face mask, and the Kabuto was a helmet. These were the final pieces of armor to be put on, protecting the head and face.
The general principle to put on a samurai armor is from the bottom up, and from the left to right. This order could vary in different clans, and many of the details were considered to be secret. It was also recommended that some parts of the armor should be easily removable in case the circumstances of the battle required it. For example, when climbing walls the Samurai removed the face mask menpo and the swords were worn vertically on the back. Most of the elements were removed before combat in marshes or other wet ground, naval battles or any especially difficult battle.
As we wrap up our journey into the world of Samurai armor, it’s clear that wearing this detailed gear was not just about safety. It was also a ritual showing the Samurai’s discipline, readiness, and respect for their customs. The armor, besides being a shield, was also a sign of the Samurai’s rank and fighting skills.
But, it’s important to remember that as time went on, the armor’s practical use lessened, and it became more of a ceremonial and symbolic outfit. By the late Edo period, regular armor was rarely worn except for ceremonies, and was often replaced by items like the kusari-katabira when a Samurai needed protection.
Even so, the beauty and skill of Samurai armor still amaze us, standing as a tribute to Japan’s rich cultural past and the legendary warriors who wore them. Whether seen in a museum or read about in a book, Samurai armor continues to impress and inspire, a timeless symbol of a past age.
So, the next time you see a Samurai armor, remember the careful process these warriors went through to wear their battle gear, and the deep cultural meaning each piece had. It’s not just armor, but an interesting story of Japan’s Samurai, their fighting skills, their rank, and their strong commitment to their lifestyle.