Introduce the Samurai Armor Haidate History and types

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What is Haidate 佩楯?

Haidate is a piece of samurai armor that protects the thighs, which make up a large part of the lower body. The thighs, which play an important role in walking and contain arteries and nerves, are areas that could lead to death if get hurt during combat. Therefore, a strong armor to protect them them are a must since ancient times.

History of Haidate

Armor parts that protects the thighs, like the later Haidate, have been used since the Kofun period, as seen in the expressions of “Bujin Haniwa” (武人埴輪 warrior clay figures).

The Haidate used on samurai samurai, although there are still some unclear things about its origin, but there are many proofs of haidate widely used from the Nanbokucho period to the Sengoku period. When “Tosei Gusoku” (modern armor) appeared, Haidate became almost an essential part of armor.

The oldest existing haidate proof is from the Muromachi period, it is depicted in the Kamakura period’s scroll “Heiji Monogatari Emaki平治物語絵巻” which depicts the situation of the “Heiji Rebellion平治の乱”.

The use of Haidate

As mentioned earlier, the thighs are areas that you would prefer not to be attacked, but if they are fully protected, it becomes difficult to walk. Looking at the actual artifacts and paintings up to the Kamakura period, it seems that the sturdy Haidate was mainly used by high-ranking samurai who rode horses, while the middle-ranking and lower-ranking samurai who fought on foot either equipped simple Haidate that prioritized mobility and speed or did not wear haidate at all.

When riding a horse, the legs are at a height that is easy to aim at from enemy infantry, so it can be understand that Haidate was mainly used by high-ranking samurai cavalry. Even when looking at the “Okashi Gusoku” (御貸具足 rental armor) provided for ordinary foot soldiers (足軽) fighting on the front lines, there is either no leg armor at all, or only simple “Suneate” (shin guards).

Major Types of Haidate

板佩楯 Ita Haidate

The most commonly seen Haidate in modern armor is the “Ita Haidate”. Rectangular small plates are joined together and hardened with lacquer to make several long plates, which are sewn onto the “Ieji” (home ground). In order to balance defense and reduce the burden on the legs, the material is mainly light “Nerikawa” (tanned leather). The decoration is mostly black lacquer, but there are also items decorated with conspicuous color lacquer and gold leaf.

伊予佩楯 Iyo Haidate

The method of making is similar to Ita Haidate, but the “Iyozane” (Iyo plate), which has a narrower width to connect, has a much larger quantity of plates than Ita Haidate, the production process is much more time consuming. so it was often matched with the armor of rich high-ranking samurai. Iyo Zane is not hardened with lacquer, but is loosely joined with “Odoshige” (威毛 cord lacing hair), so it is soft and bends, and fits the thighs. 

小篠佩楯 Kojino Haidate

Unlike the Ita Haidate and Iyo Haidate, which are made up of small plates, there are also Haidate made of chains. They are called “Kojino Haidate 小篠佩楯” or “Kusari Haidate 鎖佩楯”, and small iron plates are placed in the fabric connected by chains, aiming for both ease of movement and defense. If you look closely, you will find many differences, such as changing the color of Kojino or the chain, or arranging the shape of Kojino or the way the chain is knitted.

縅佩楯 Odoshi Haidate

Odoshi Haidate is a Haidate made by weaving small plates, just like other parts of the armor. It is inferior to Iyo Haidate and Ita Haidate in terms of ease of movement, but it has the characteristics of high defense power and easy to bring out artistic patterns

宝幢佩楯 Houdou Haidate

The upper half is Iyo Haidate, and the lower half is divided into three like Odoshi Haidate. When standing, there are gaps around the knees to be protected, which was not suitable for infantry battles, but when riding a horse, this cut increased the flexibility of the knees. It was used mainly by horse-riding samurai and was often made as a retro-style Haidate.


1 comment

  • Posted on by Rick K.

    Thank you very much for the information about Haidate. These seem to be even more varied than the Suneate, but maybe that’s because there were fewer examples in the latter. There’s certainly a lot more area available on Haidate for artistic expression.

    It’s interesting that most of the examples provided in this article are for mounted troops, particularly those who are wealthier. Perhaps the poorer samurai who could barely afford their mounts had to do without such luxuries, at the risk of more injuries to their thighs.

    As I pointed out in my comment concerning Suneate, the pictures are very helpful but I’d still like to see some references to further reading. English translations are helpful but if the documentation is online in Japanese, most modern browsers can translate with at least a modicum of accuracy.

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