what material was samurai armor made of


Samurai, the warrior class of Japan from the olden days, are pretty cool and still grab people’s attention all over the world. They were known for their amazing fighting skills, strict way of life, and their unique armor. This article is all about that armor, which was as practical as it was good-looking. Just like their famous weapon, the katana, the samurai armor was a product of some serious craftsmanship. Despite what some people might think, it wasn’t made from bamboo or wood. Samurai armor was mainly made from rawhide, also known as nerigawa, and iron, or tetsu. This article will give you the lowdown on these materials and how they were used in different parts of the Japanese armor. 


Nerigawa, or rawhide as it’s known in English, was a key material in making samurai armor. Its toughness and ability to spread out the impact of hits made it a great choice for reducing harm.

When making armor, rawhide was typically used to make scales (Kozane) or lames. These were then put together to make different parts of the armor. For instance, the neck guard of a kabuto (the samurai armor helmet) was often made from lames made up of many rawhide scales.

It can be hard to tell the difference between armor made from rawhide and those made from metal just by looking, especially when it comes to high-quality nerigawa-based gusoku (armor). The big difference in weight is usually the clearest sign that an item is made from rawhide.

As for how it’s made, a good example of rawhide armor is a nerigawa ni-mai-dō made using ichi-mai-ita, or single-plate pieces. This shows how flexible and useful rawhide can be when making samurai armor.


Iron played a key role in making samurai armor. The quality of iron varied depending on where it came from. For example, iron from Harima and Idzumo was seen as better than iron from places like Bitchu, Hoki, Mimasaki, or Iwami. Interestingly, old saws and farming tools were a great source of iron.

Smelting iron was kind of a small-scale business. It was done in a rectangular furnace that was about three feet by six feet and six feet tall. This furnace was usually built into a hole in the ground.

When it came to making armor, the craftsmen used their knowledge of making swords from a mix of iron and steel. This let them make metal plates that had a steel front and an iron back. This mix of materials let them use the strong pulling power of steel and the shock-absorbing flexibility of iron.

Some of these armor makers were so skilled they could make laminate plate armor that was only 1 mm thick. This shows just how good the metal workers of feudal Japan were. Using better quality metal could save a lot of time and hard work, so it was always a good idea to start with the best metal possible.


Absolutely, cords played a vital role in samurai armor. They were used in different ways, like tying together lamellar sections of the armor. These cords, called odoshi-ge, were made from braided cotton and hemp. But they were usually not as strong as kawa-odoshi-ge, which was made from leather.

Cords were also used in the cuirass, or the body armor, of the samurai, similar to braces. They were threaded through holes in the cuirass to help distribute some of the weight away from the wearer’s shoulders.

Moreover, cords were used to prevent the armor from getting worn out. For instance, the takahimo, sode-tsuke-no-gumi-wa, and other cords that stuck out from the surfaces of the yoroi (armor) were safeguarded by gilded copper grommets known as shidome. These grommets protected the cords from the edges of the solid-plate surfaces, which could cause the cords to fray over time.

The exact material used to make the takahimo cords on most late classical and early medieval-period cuirasses isn’t completely known due to a lack of surviving examples. However, surviving examples from the latter part of the Kamakura period were mainly made from lengths of braided cord that were covered in red go-sei-aka-gawa or other types of koberi-gawa. Over time, takahimo made from unsheathed lengths of braided hemp, cotton, and silk cord were also introduced. To help the cords carry the heavy weight of the cuirass, they were usually braided around an inner core of sturdy fibers.

So, there you have it. The samurai armor, a symbol of the samurai’s strength and honor, was a marvel of craftsmanship and practical design. Made primarily from rawhide and iron, it was built to withstand the rigors of battle while also being lightweight and flexible. The use of cords in the armor added another layer of complexity and functionality. The samurai armor is a testament to the ingenuity and skill of the armor makers of feudal Japan. It’s a fascinating piece of history that continues to captivate us today. Whether you’re a history buff, a fan of samurai culture, or just someone who appreciates good craftsmanship, there’s no denying the impressive nature of samurai armor.

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