Do – Evolution of Japanese Armor

One of the major parts used by Samurai Class and foot soldiers or Ashigaru is Do. It was in the early 4th century when Tanko was worn by foot soldiers and Keiko. These are types of cuirass a form of Samurai Suit.

This Samurai Armor part was constructed from iron plates connected by leather thongs. It was only in the Edo period when the style for this armor has evolved into the more familiar style worn by Samurai better known as Do.

These are ensured to be weatherproof since battles take place even through extreme weather conditions. By the Heian period, cuirass was distinctly a Samurai Armor.

The appearance of this armor was upgraded to the use of leather or iron scales and silk lace to connect these individual scales or Kozane.

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When Nanban trade started with Europe by the 16th-century Samurai was able to appreciate the European version of the cuirass. These became the inspiration for the Japanese version of Do in the 16th century.

These offered better protection against matchlock muskets as Tanegashima. The evolution of this armor begun from its old lamellar form into the plate armor constructed of solid stuff like iron and steel plates.

These were referred to as Tosei Gusoku or new armors. These were bullet resistant. These were known as Tameshi Gusoku that allows Samurai to wear their armor even when the midst of bullet firings from the enemies.

Cuirass Evolution

Japanese armor like these was made of leather or Nerigawa and lacquer to weatherproof certain parts of this armor. Kusazuri was made from leather and iron a plate that hangs from the front and back of the Do to protect the body and the upper leg.

Tate-eri was a small padded pillow to help the armored collar stand on the shoulder to bear the weight of the Do. By 1603 because of the waning interest in battles, the Samurai only need the plate and lamellar style Do as a symbol of their status.

ryochiji [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
However, there was no need for the traditional version of this. By the Edo period, lightweight and concealed armor were preferred because there was still a need for personal protection even if a constant battle has ended.

There remains civil strife, duels, revolts and even assassinations which calls for extra protection. There was a need for armors that can be worn under ordinary clothes.

Traditional armor was still worn and used in Japan during the Meiji period. The last times that Samurai use armors were in 1877 during the Satsuma Rebellion.

Types of Do

  • Kozane. These use lamellar construction with individual scales before firearms were introduced in Japan.
  • Do-maru. This was an early type that uses no hinge and is constructed using Hon Kozane.
  • Haramaki. This opens from the back constructed with Hon Kozane.
  • Hon Kozane. Any kind of cuirass that uses Hon Kozane.
  • False Kozane. This copy the way lamellar was constructed. The craftsman uses long lames.
  • Tatami. These can be folded from small square or rectangular armor plates. These were portable and lightweight.
  • O-yoroi. This was an early version used by mounted Samurai and was constructed using Hon Kozane.

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