Title / object name
Samurai armour (Sendai-do no Gusoku)
|Maker ||Role ||Date |
|Muneyoshi of the House of Myouchin ||manufacturer(s) ||1735 |
hide, lacquer, iron, buckskin, silk, ramie, hemp
|Overall ||1500 (Height) x 600 (Length) x 800 (Width/Depth) mm|
Acquisition history unknown
There is no surviving record for this magnificent Japanese samurai armour. Known as Sendai-do no Gusoku, it dates from the eighteenth century and was acquired in 1883 by Te Papa's predecessor, the Colonial Museum.
Japanese armour (gusoku) of this kind was worn by samurai and was never intended to resemble ordinary garments. It hung from the body and was made to give way under blows, unlike European armour, which was designed to fit the person and resist blows. The armour plates are made of black lacquered steel. It is the lacquer that provides the strength. Made from a milky tree sap, Japanese lacquer is very durable and resistant to water, acids, scratches, and heat. The separate plates of a samurai's armour are strung together with coloured cords made from silk or leather.
The role of samurai
Samurai were members of a powerful military caste that existed in Japan for over 1000 years. They began as warriors, employed to serve the lords of the land, and followed high ideals of loyalty and sacrifice. Later, after a long period of civil war, ending in the 1500s, they became powerful administrators and keepers of the peace. By the eighteenth century, their armour was worn mainly for show and ceremony.
In 2001 Te Papa began to conserve this armour, carefully returning it to pristine condition. It is the first samurai armour in New Zealand to be fully conserved and is displayed in a seated position, as is the tradition.