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Phoenix Art Museum: Samurai Armor, Part 4

Every time you turn the corner in this exhibit you find something extraordinary. This armor of the Okegawado type is enhanced in impressive style by the huge sashimono. It was intended to make the wearer stand out. Made of gilded, lacquered Japanese paper, the sashimono was too delicate for combat — so it was worn by a samurai surveying the battlefield or for use in parades.



Since there is no reference for judging the size of this suit of armor, you might be surprised to learn that it is sized for a boy, an heir to a daimyo family. Sons of samurai began military training at a young age. They also received strict religious and academic training. At the age of 12, the young samurai would be presented with his first sword and armor.


Next up is full-sized armor of the Mogamido type from the Edo period in the mid-19th century. The artisan who made this helmet, Myochin Muneharu, is known for creating a suit of armor that was a diplomatic gift from a Takugawa shogun to Queen Victoria.


This rugged helmet is from the Mid-Edo period, around 1730. It is a prime example of the trend at that time to revisit the classical styles of armor from the Kamakura period, 1185 to 1333.


The next part of the exhibit was really quite impressive — a line of samurai in armor, not in a display case, but appearing to be walking one after the other. This samurai is outfitted in armor of the Domaru type from around 1550. This type was fashioned from a single chest piece fashioned with lacing on the right side. The chest piece was made of articulated scales laced with doeskin braids — a very rare embellishment.


Next in line is a samurai wearing armor of the Nuinobedo type from the Momoyama and Edo periods in the second half of the 16th century. This armor embodies the taste of the daimyo, who sought more simply built (solid horizontal plates that were cut to resemble individual scales) but more ornate armor. Nuinobedo-type armor features a two-part chest piece that hinged together under the left arm and closed with lacing under the right side.


Leading the line of marchers is a samurai wearing armor of the Yokohagido type from the 17th and 18th century. This type of armor features a chest plate made of flat, wide horizontal plates riveted together. This flamboyant example, with its red-lacquered plates and blue lacing, illustrates how color and an impressive helmet could help a samurai stand out on the battlefield.


This helmet and mask is from the mid-Edo period, 17th-18th century. The frontal crest is fashioned of leather covered in gold lacquer and represents a ginkgo leaf, a symbol of longevity.


This helmet and half-mask is from the late 16th century and inspired by a ceremonial headdress (eboshi) that was once worn at the imperial court. A youth of the samurai class received his first eboshi at the time of his coming-of-age ceremony.


Sitting in a display case in the lobby is armor of the Nimaitachido type. It consists of two-part chest armor that curves slightly at the waist. A lacquered wood lion extends from the front of the helmet. Each sleeve is adorned with a dragon coiled around a double-edged sword — and attribute of the deity Fudo Myoo, the Immovable One.


The next two photos are of items in the permanent collection of the museum. This suit of armor is from about 1750. It is fabricated from pieces of lacquered leather laced together with silk cord. This made the armor light and flexible since fighting, at that time, typically was on foot with swords or bows and arrows.


Our last photo is of Bishamonten, a god whose name means "he who listens to many teachings". He is associated with war and warriors, as he is most often shown clad in armor. The pagoda he holds represents the heavenly treasure house, which he both protects and dispenses from. His trident represents the Three Buddhist Jewels — the Buddha, the Darma (Buddhist Law) and the Sangha (Buddhist Community).



I hope you enjoyed the photos of this exhibition as much as Johnny and I did seeing it in person. For those of you who live in the Phoenix area, this exhibit will be on display until July 16, 2017. There is a charge of $5.00 in addition to the regular admission. I thought it was well worth it.

Life is good.

Aloha,
B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com