The Art of War Exploring the Colors of Samurai Armor


Samurai armor is more than just a protective gear. It’s a symbol of status, a reflection of personality, and a canvas of rich symbolism. One of the most intriguing aspects of this armor is its color. The choice of color in Samurai armor was not random. It was steeped in mythology, symbolic meaning, and even practical considerations. This article will help you understand deeper about samurai armor’s color:

How did Samurai Armor gets the color?

Lacquer on the metal parts (mainly kozane) and colorful cords form the aesthetic samurai armor appearance.

What is the most popular color for samurai armor?

Black lacquer, also known as kuro urushi, was frequently used to complete various pieces of armor. The process of lacquering Samurai armor was intricate and typically performed by a lacquer artist specialist, not the armor creator. This implies that armor workshops probably employed a lacquer expert who could handle the fundamental procedures. The lacquer was used to provide a shiny finish, which, although striking when fresh, quickly revealed scratches and fingerprints. If the armor was to be colored or adorned in some way, additional colored layers or metallic dusts could be layered over black base coats to boost their shine.

The color of Samurai armor cords (Odoshi) came from various natural dyes. For instance, the extracts of madder and gromwell were used to create different colors. However, the use of these dyes could damage the molecular structure of the silk fibers used in the lacing, leading to its decomposition.

A lot of samurais liked to use bold colors like red for their armor. But, the most popular color picked was dark blue. This is mostly because lacing dyed with indigo can resist damage from ultraviolet rays better. The color choice was not regulated and was often based on personal preference rather than being indicative of rank or family. The Samurai did not associate colors with virtues in the same way that the Victorians and early students of heraldry did. There is no evidence that the colors chosen for an armor represented any family or clan allegiance.

Some warrior families that were related also showed a liking for certain colors. For instance, the Taira clan liked purple lacing and the Fujiwara clan liked green. There were also multi-colored combinations that didn’t follow the standard patterns, these were known as iroiro odoshi (varied color lacing). If one color faded to white at the bottom, it was called nioi and if it was reversed, with white at the top, it was called susogo.

In conclusion, the color of Samurai armor is a fascinating aspect of Japanese history and culture. It was not merely a matter of aesthetics, but also a reflection of personal preference and practical considerations. The use of natural dyes, the preference for bold colors, and the significance of color fading techniques all contribute to the rich tapestry of Samurai armor. Despite the lack of regulation or symbolic meaning, the choice of color in Samurai armor was a unique form of self-expression. It is a testament to the individuality and creativity of the Samurai, who were not just warriors, but also connoisseurs of art and culture. The Samurai armor, with its vibrant colors and intricate designs, remains a captivating symbol of Japan’s illustrious past.

Some antique Samurai Armor:

The Art of War Exploring the Colors of Samurai Armor

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