The Samurai armor remains one of the most interesting and rare components of the Samurai era. The armor was constructed from bamboo, cloth and metal. Unlike its better known counterpart, the medieval armor, the Japanese example was much lighter, which provided for ease of movement but compromised protection. The armor had to be light weight because the Samurai would often engage into hand to hand combat, requiring fast and precise movements. The majority of the armor was made from bamboo. The chest plate was usually one piece of metal while the arms and neck were composed of small pieces of metal tied together with colorful strings.
The Samurai warrior was an expert in hand to hand combat. The disciplines he mastered included Ju Jitsu, Iaido and swordsmanship. The Samurai would fight mounted on a horse or on foot. It is said that some of their opponents were strong and skilled enough to be able to punch through the Samurai armor with a single strike from their fist.
The following graph provides a view of the armor and its different components.Source: http://www.japanese-armor.com
I feel the need to correct some statements made here;
'samurai' armour or Japanese armour is not inherently lighter than 'European' armour. That would depend heavily on the financial and social status of the wearer at first. Then again, let us generalize into samurai and knights of the 'later period' described here (even though in the 16th century in Europe the 'knight' as a sociall class and military unit as falling out of favour quickly). Both functioned as a social class who held significant power in exchange for military service. It was pretty much their job description to fight, and as a result they would equip themselves with the best protection they could afford. Since all practical armour designed to be worn in warfare is intended to protect the user while still allowing as much mobility as possible we can assume that both of our generalized warriors will take a 'modern' armour of their time that both offers good protection and superior mobility. This means that a samurai will not inherently choose for a more 'mobile' armour compared to a knight who would inherently choose for a more protective armour, no, they would both make the rational decision and take the best availible, individual taste aside. Now, you might or might not have seen where I'm going with this rant, but I'll conclude it here; samurai armour was not 'lighter' (it was heavier than plate armour in many cases, ironically, with weight distribution to add) as a deliberate choice. Every warrior requires to do quick and precise movements in battle, and wants to be quick and manouvrable aswell as well-protected. The reason why samurai armour has less coverage than European armour is because it evolved in a different situation and world. Armour evolves based on the weapons used against it. ofcourse, all armours will be similar because only a few designs are actually practical and recurrent all over the world, but dependant on the threats it faced, armour evolved along with it.
tl;dr: Samurai armour was not light by choice, but due to the situation in which it evolved. It was also not light.
Second point; armour of the period you described was never, NEVER, made out of ‘bamboo or cloth’. I’m going to quote from ‘my armoury’ (link below):
"No matter what you have seen or heard, Japanese armour never was made of wood (except in the case of some of the earliest cuirasses) or bamboo. The materials were leather and iron (steel in later periods), or a combination of both. Their colors, which give them their distinct appearance and make them look like they are made of wood, are the colors of the lacing cords and the lacquer that covers the leather and metal. Generally speaking, Japanese armour could be classified by their construction in three large groups—scale armours, lamellar armours and full-plate armours.”
Why would a man of previously described rather wealthy class be conent with a flimsy Hollywood bamboo armour? I’m not denying it might have existed as an improvised form of armour, but I’m heavily disputing its usage by any soldier who has acces to any form of basic metal armour. About cloth; iI understand that it was used to lace the armour, to provide padding and garments and perhaps even standalone armour for poorere classes, but a samurai would definately prefer a metal do over a thick form of clothe armour.
Sources: http://www.myarmoury.com/feature_jpn_armour.html and http://www.sengokudaimyo.com/katchu/katchu.html
Now please take this as supportive criticism/debate since I know I probably sounded quite harsh and/or mean without intending to do so, (seriously) but I just wanted to prevent what I consider misinformation to be spread. It is irritating enough to see ‘uncultured plebs’ talk about longbows piercing through three fully plated knights and their hoses, and I suppose every bit counts to fight Hollywood in its popularisation but also degradation of Medieval history. Or something.
Not at all, thanks for pointing this out! I’m definitely no expert and should have done my research before reblogging, my mistake! My schooling is all in European history so my Japanese/Asian history is sorely lacking. Which doesn’t excuse posting without researching, but I’m lazy to a terrible degree xD
Really, thanks again! This is great information to have and I hope everyone reads it! I’m going to go back and remove the original reblog so this lovely commentary will be the only posting of it on the blog.
I love them all.