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Object: Samurai armour (Sendai-do no Gusoku)

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Title Samurai armour (Sendai-do no Gusoku)
Production Muneyoshi of the House of Myouchin (manufacturer(s)), 1735, Japan
Materials hide, lacquer, iron, buckskin, silk, ramie, hemp
Classification armor
Dimensions Overall: 1500mm (Height) x 600mm (Length) x 800mm (Width/Depth)
Credit line Acquisition history unknown
Registration number FE010354

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.

Samurai armour

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.

Conservation

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.

Related information

Disclaimer: This information was created from historic documentation, and may not necessarily reflect the best available knowledge about the item. Some collection images are created for identification purposes only and may not be of reproduction quality. Some images are not available due to copyright restrictions. If you have information or questions about objects in the collection, contact us using our enquiry form. You can also find out more about Collections Online.