This suit of 16th-century Japanese armor (or possibly a later replica) is composed of multiple pieces as well as the katana (sword). Lacing the armor was an art in itself called odoshi, and the color and patterns produced allowed a samurai to identify a member of a clan by the color of the lacing cord.
The kabuto (helmet) is adorned by a rabbit, which in Japanese folklore can symbolize immortality as the creatures are admired for their speed, virility and longevity. The exaggeratedly long ears add to the imposing appearance and would have made him easily recognizable on the battlefield. The black mempo (face mask) has led students to liken him to Star War’s Darth Vader. That is no coincidence; Steven Spielberg used the samurai as a model for his dark warrior.
Other components include:
- a do (cuirass) for the torso
- sode (shoulder guards)
- kote (armored sleeves) for the arms
- kusazuri (armored skirt or apron) to protect the upper thighs
- suneate (shin guards)
- haidate (thigh guards)
In Japan, the 16th century was a period of warring states with several hundred powerful local rulers, or daimyo, vying for power and territory. Such an elaborate suit of armor would have belonged to an elite samurai—either a daimyo or one of his valued generals. The gosannokiri crest on this armor indicates that he would have had ties to the imperial family, the Ashikaga, the Oda, and/or the Toyotomi—notable movers and shakers of that time.
The Samurai Armor and Gettysburg College
This armor was a gift of Major General Charles A. Willoughby, Class of 1914. He acquired it while serving as chief of intelligence for General Douglas MacArthur from 1940 to 1951
Special thanks to our archivists and Professor Dina Lowy to help unmask the mysterious "Samuri Dude" as Lowy playfully calls him.
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Curated by Musselman Library