Welcome to the latest edition of Sengoku Daimyo’s Armor online armor manual. This manual was originally written by our founder and friend, the late Anthony J. Bryant with the intention of assisting SCA and other reenactors in building their own armor for rigorous medieval combat sports. It includes information on actual armor but also includes modern cheats and conceits with the understanding that individuals will be using this to build armor themselves.
To be clear, this is not an exhaustive manual on all of the parts of Japanese armor, nor is it meant to be a guide to building and restoring traditionally made, antique Japanese armor. While much of the information contained may provide tips and tricks, there is a lot that Tony never wrote down, and for many artisans you will want to go out and find more information if you really want to become a proper armorer, with some of the best information coming from the extant traditions out of Japan.
That said, we will be making updates to the site as we have time. We have a small number of students and friends that are working to keep this site up and running. For the most part we are keeping Tony’s text as he wrote it, including some of his own preferences, such as the spelling of “armour” rather than “armor”, though in most areas we have standardized to American English spelling. In some cases we have made some grammatical edits, and we have edited some content to make it more understandable. We’ve also changed most of the circumflexes to the more common macron; originally the macron was not available to editors in the same way as it is today. Likewise, we will look to add actual Japanese characters to the site where appropriate so that people have better search terms. As we grow in our own understanding, we may add more information that was not in the original, if we feel that it fits Tony’s vision for the site. Tony was constantly working on the site since he first developed it, and we don’t believe he would want it to sit idle and simply become irrelevant.
All of this will take time, and we expect this to be a living site. It is our hope that we will do all of this in a way that you, the reader, find enjoyable and informative while keeping to the core of Tony’s intent.
-The Sengoku Daimyo Management Team
It was originally my intention to produce an issue of the Compleat Anachronist pamphlet series which would enable an armourer with fairly average skills to produce a good Japanese armour. The idea has grown to the point where it’s probably too unweildy for such a publication. Also, using the Web to present the information allows me to use color photographs and color illustrations to clarify things that are simply not well presented in a black-and-white printed document. There was another problem, though: specifically, the issue of what constitutes “proper” Japanese armour for use in the Society for Creative Anachronism. Unfortunately, many aspects of Japanese armour fly in the face of thirty-odd years of SCA-style combat. What this means is that, in many instances, a decision will have to be made — namely, are you making armour for combat or for dress?
I will present dress armour primarily, as I am a firm believer in authenticity of appearance. Where concessions for SCA combat must be made, I will explain the necessary diversions and provide explanations on how to finish the armour in either functional or authentic form.
I do not lay claim to being a master armourer. Rather, my skills are only average. I do, however, have an extensive experience with Japanese armour. My major field of study was Japanese medieval history, and when I lived in Japan from 1986–92, I was a member of the Nihon Katchū Bugu Kenkyū Hozon Kai (Japanese Arms and Armour Research and Preservation Society). Several of the members of the Kenkyū Kai were armourers, and some were from families who had been in the armouring business for centuries. I was fortunate enough to fall in with people who had studied under the Myōchin, one of the most illustrious families in armouring in Japan. I also spent inordinate amounts of free time at Yoroi no Kōzan-dō, a shop in Tōkyō which makes and sells replica armours. If you saw Kagemusha, Ran, Shōgun, or any of a hundred other films or TV series, you’ve seen Kōzan-dō armour on your screen.
Thanks to their patient explanation and long friendship, I was able to learn how to make Japanese armour from the real masters of the craft.
Obviously, neither one narrow pamphlet nor a lone website can contain all the information I learned, but I will endeavor to present as much as possible. If there are any questions on the material herein or on related matters, I am ready to answer them as best I can.
One thing that needs to be addressed first is probably my biggest button: Japanese armour was never made of wood or bamboo. It was either leather, steel, or a combination of the two. Don’t even ask me.
I will use Japanese terms wherever possible herein, as it is easier to refer to something by its proper name than keep coming up with English euphemisms. Have no fear, though, as it won’t take long to get used to the terminology. I provide several illustrations with the terms pointing out the part referred to, as well as a detailed glossary page.
The patterns that are provided herein are not inline. Rather, they are separate PDF files that will open in a different window or are downloadable. I did this deliberately to allow for patterns to be printed in the actual size, or at a specific percentage of the actual size. I never trust inline images to come out actual size when copied and pasted somewhere. You will obviously have to have a PDF reader to be able to see these files. The patterns are all indicated by a pale blue button on the right side of your browser screen. I would like to apologize in advance for the length of time it will take some of these pages to load. I have tried to walk a fine line between keeping the graphics files as small as I can and maintaining the integrity of them as illustrative to the text. I have tried to present as many chances as possible to see some of the details of and variations on armour, and I beg your kind forbearance.
Finally, a note of dedication:
This work is dedicated to all those in the SCA who strive to study and present Japanese culture in the best way they can; and it is also dedicated to the teachers of armouring and related matters — both here and in Japan — with whom I have studied; and especially among them to the memory of Suzuki Keizō (1913–1993), who taught my teachers.