Azuchi-Momoyama Period (1568 – 1600)
In the chronological history of Japan, the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568 – 1600) is the epoch of unification. This period witnessed the decline of the grand warlords such as Takeda Shingen (1521 – 1573), Oda Nobunaga (1534 – 1582) and his lieutenant/deputy Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536 – 1598) until the final triumph and affirmation over all warlords by Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542 – 1616) who made himself shogun. Tokugawa Ieyasu introduced a long period of peace known as Tokugawa or Edo period named after the capital city. Before this period of peace however, there was an epoch of grand battles between the samurai who lived during those turbulent times. Our samurai is wearing armour similar to that which tradition describes was worn by Ii Naomasa at the Battle of Sekigahara (1600) entirely lacquered in red with silk cords and laces in yellow. He carries on his back the sashimono or flag, a use introduced in the Japanese military around 1573 demonstrating a strong external influence on the Japanese military tradition during the Azuchi-Momoyama period. Apart from the paired swords (dai-sho) that every samurai carried, namely the katana and wakizashi, a popular form of combating between the samurais was the fighting with lances with straight blades known generically as yari. There were many variations of this weapon. The yari with blades of rhomboidal sections were known as ryo-shinogi-yari, whilst those with blades of triangular sections were known as sankaku-yari. The blades used for foot combat had blades more than 40cm in length. The famous samurai Kato Kyomasa, hero of the Battle of Shizugatake in 1583, used during the course of his brilliant military career the lance type known as katana-yari with the ‘L’ shaped blade, a variation of the jumonji-yari type with the three pointed blade (a reverse ‘T’ blade).
Helmet of the hineno-kabuto type in metal lacquered in red or in gilded bronze.
Shikoro or helmet neck guard made from metal sheets in lacquered red tied together with yellow coloured silk cords.
Shime-o or helmet cord under the chin in yellow silk.
Facial mask of the hampo type in metal lacquered in red.
Nuinobe-do or cuirass made of metallic sheets lacquered in red with cords and right sided lateral lacing in cords of silk either golden yellow or blue.
Sode or shoulder strap lacquered in red with golden yellow or blue cords.
Kusazuri or armour plates to protect the thighs: lacquered in red like the rest of the armour tied to the cuirass with golden yellow or blue silk cords.
Haidate or protective element in the shape of an apron to protect the legs: made of metal plates lacquered in red with silk cords in golden yellow or blue.
Kote or arm protection in chain mail, hiki-gane or rounded elbow protection in iron and lacquered. The external part in red, central part in black with central button in red. Metal plates of the upper arms sown onto the chain mail in natural white metal. Forearm protection of iron plates lacquered in red sown onto the chain mail. The hand is protected by an iron plate lacquered in red.
Belt around the waist would be a silk sash of a dark colour.
Hakama or wide sleeves in textile: these could have been of various types often in coloured silk decorated with geometric motifs or styles/patterns.
Suneate or shin guards comprising of knee guards made from reinforced hide with metal stud in gilded bronze, metal plates lacquered in gold and stakes in red laced together with pieces of white cloth (kukuri).
Habaki or leggings in light coloured hide or cloth with decorated motifs.
Sandals made from natural or coloured rope, tahi or socks in light or dark hide.
Katana or long combating sword: tsuba or sword hilt in bronze, handle made of coloured silk laces interwoven. Fittings in bronze, wooden scabbard lacquered in red like the rest of the panolopy.
Wakizashi or short sword: handle and scabbard like the katana.
Yari or lance with steel blade, nagaye or wooden lance shaft either in white or kashi red made from a Japanese Evergreen oak.
Metallic ring (habaki) and lower reinforcement in iron or copper or in shakudo alloy (brass and silver).
Sashimono or flag on the back with shaft made from bamboo with light wooden support and flag made of textile with the mon or insignia of the characters kan-ji.
Sculptor: Victor Konnov
Research & Text: Marco Giuliani