Introduce the Samurai Armor Kote: History and Types

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What is Kote

Kote of Samurai Armor

“Kote” (籠手) is a part in Samurai Armor that protects hands and arms from enemy attacks. As long as human fight with weapons in their hands, there is a need to protect their hands. The Kote used in Japanese armor basically sews a hard plate such as iron or leather onto the cloth that covers the back of the hand to the shoulder in one piece.

Kote History

The use of Kote in Japan can be trace back to the Kofun period. In the armor such as “Tanko” (短甲) and “Keiko” (挂甲). The ancient Kote has been excavated from the tomb, and a clay figure of a warrior (武人埴輪) equipped with Kote has also been discovered. They are all proofs that Kote has been widely used in ancient Japan. 

In the Heian period to the Kamakura period, upper-class samurai mainly fought “Kisha-sen” (騎射戦), where they rode horses and fought with bows and arrows.
In order to make it easier to draw and shoot arrows, and to prevent the bowstring from getting tangled in the sleeve of the clothes when they released the arrow, they only wear Kote on their left arm. This method is called “Katagote” (片籠手). Even in modern Kyudo(弓道), when you shoot a bow in a kimono, you may take off your left sleeve and show your bare skin, which can be said to be similar to the idea of Katagote.

From Katagote to Morogote
From the Nanbokucho to the Muromachi periods, the trend in warfare changes significantly. The popularity of horseback archery declines, and instead, the style of fighting on foot with ‘Uchimono 打物’ (weapons such as swords and spears) increases. In response to this, ‘Morogote 諸籠手’ (wearing Kote for both arms) became established to prepare for enemy attacks on the arm holding the weapon.

Then, with the creation of ‘Tosei Gusoku’ (当世具足 modern armor), new types of kote increased rapidly. In the Edo period, high-quality kote with intricate workmanship were very popular. 

Major Types of Kote

筒籠手 Tsutsu kote

Tsutsu kote is a type that covers the forearm with a cylindrical board

篠籠手 Shino kote

Shino kote is made up of thin boards, and the name comes from the fact that it looks like a thin bamboo called ‘Shino’ is lined up.

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