Japanese chain garments as armor or kusari gusoku.
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Japanese chain garments as armor or kusari gusoku.
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Posted on Wed Feb 24, 2010 8:10 pm
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Japanese chain mail armor, also known as kusari gusoku, samurai chain mail armor, ninja armor, is different than traditional Japanese or samurai armor which uses chain mail in its construction but chain mail is not the majority of the defensive material used. Japanese chain mail armor consists primarily of chain mail sewn to cloth (and sometimes leather) and is worn as a type of defensive clothing. Small amounts of armor plates can be attached to the chain mail armor in certain areas but the majority of the defensive material will be chain mail. Hexagon armor plates "kikko" can be sewn to the fabric of chain "kusari" garments, the kikko can be exposed or hidden between layers of cloth. Kikko can be made from iron,or hardened leather and can be most often seen hidden in the collars of chain jackets "kusari katabira". Japanese chain mail armor comes in various forms of clothing or garments including, jackets, vests, gauntlets and gloves, hoods, thigh and shin guards ,and soxs. Kusari is the name for chain in Japanese and gusoku is the name for armor. "Kusari gusoku" is the Japanese name for a suit of chain mail armor with the individual pieces having their own names such as "kusari katabira" for chain mail jacket, "kusari zukin" for chain mail hood, "kusari tabi" for chain mail soxs, "kusari kote" for chain mail gloves, "kusari haidate" for chain mail thigh guards, "kusari suneate" for chain mail shin guards etc. The type of pattern most often used is called a ...4 in 1...pattern or "namban-kusari". Here is a close up picture of the 2 most common types of kusari used in construction of kusari garments.....................
here is a link to many other pictures of Japanese (samurai) mail and armor. http://s831.photobucket.com/albums/zz238/estcrh/samurai%20chainmail%20and%20armor%20samples/....If anyone is interested in this subject feel free to contact me.

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Posted on Wed Feb 24, 2010 8:59 pm
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This is GREAT information!! Would you mind submitting this as an article and include some of the pictures that you have the link directed to? There are not very many articles on Japanese maille and I think that this would be a really nice addition to the history articles.


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Posted on Wed Feb 24, 2010 11:18 pm
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I don't know much about japanese chain-mail armour. But what I know is contrary to the things you have written. Therefore I'd be thankful if you can provide us with (scientific) literature about this subject.

Achim

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Posted on Thu Feb 25, 2010 2:15 am
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So for the sake of a good discussion....

Catweazle - what do you know that contradicts americansamurai's original post? Now mind you I am not trying to start a fight just a search for the truth in a friendly environment.

I hope that this will not blow up in my face, but I am interested in this subject and for the interest of learning lets start a friendly discussion and compare what we know. After that the two of you could co-author a great article.


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Posted on Thu Feb 25, 2010 3:24 am
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This is the first I'd heard of most of this. Granted, I don't look into the Japanese stuff very often. However, it's always been my understanding that maille was more a way to connect things than an actual armor style, the way it was in Europe. Maille would have been fairly effective against a katana, though, given the fact that such swords slice more than chop (as opposed to European straight blades).

The picture you posted, AS, shows both the rounded and oval links that I've seen in a few different pieces. Leads weight to the authenticity of the argument. Not that I'm trying to cast doubt on you at all--merely pointing out evidence that you know your stuff.

What I know is basically SCA stuff from online. As I said, I don't look into this very much, what with my persona being a member of the Teutonic order. Here's where I got most of my data:

My Armoury has an article which includes some stuff on this. Of note, it says that while such maille did exist, it was almost never alone, but rather functioned as a connection between other pieces.

An interesting online publication concerning Japanese armor. More with a general overview of construction than specifically dealing with maille. However, the fact that maille isn't mentioned is rather telling. Any book on European armor which doesn't include a discussion of maille, for example, should be laughed out of existance.

On a side note, I am very interested to know more about this. It seems like it'd be fairly easy to make. I've got spare denim lying around (as what good armorer doesn't?), and this would be a relatively easy way to put together a period kit. I say "relatively" because 1.) I know the basics of maille, having built some already, and 2.) leather working sucks. My wife is better at it than I am, and stands over my shoulder criticizing me. How was the armor attached to the cloth? I know it says "sewn in", but are we talking just putting maille into pouches sewn into the garment, or sewing each link, or sewing the ends, or something else?

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Posted on Thu Feb 25, 2010 3:40 am
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from the looks of this pic

http://s831.photobucket.com/albums/zz238/estcrh/samurai%20chainmail%20and%20armor%20samples/?action=view&current=100_3276.jpg

it looks as if the edge was sewn in and then in every so often a stitch would be added in to help the maile hold form to the cloth. normally i do not like the Japanese maile, because of the use of round smaller connection rings, but this is a prime example of the use of oval rings and i truly like it.

i would like to ask though how you made the oval rings, ive done a little looking around for options but i haven't found any i really care for.

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Posted on Thu Feb 25, 2010 3:45 am || Last edited by Worldantiques on Thu Feb 25, 2010 3:51 am; edited 1 time in total
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Catweazle wrote:
I don't know much about japanese chain-mail armour. But what I know is contrary to the things you have written. Therefore I'd be thankful if you can provide us with (scientific) literature about this subject.

Achim
The first thing that I can tell you is that I have had the ability to study a large amount of Japanese chain armor and armored clothing and have seen many examples in person and I own one of the largest collections that I know of, but I certainly am not an expert...I have yet to talk to anyone who can actually call themselves an expert on the subject of Japanese chain and armored clothing. Rather than provide you with scientific literature which in the past was not very well researched, I can provide visual evidence in the form of photographs of various types of Japanese chain armor which is in my possession and am willing to share these pictures with anyone who is interested in the subject, this is the best form of research I know of. Lets start by telling me what it is you have read about this subject that I have contradicted. I myself was unable to find any real proof of what I was reading on the subject and decided to find and buy as many examples as I could get my hands on. I own several of the more well known kusari katibira that you will see on the internet when you search for....Japanese chainmail..or kusari karibira..or ninja chainmail..etc. I have probably seen many more examples then the so called experts who I am supposed to be contradicting. Only recently has there been a large enough supply of kusari coming out of Japan for the average person to study it without having to rely on second hand reports from people who were mostly interested in traditional samurai armor and did not have a passion for the subject as I have.

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Posted on Thu Feb 25, 2010 3:50 am
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dravin666 wrote:
from the looks of this pic

http://s831.photobucket.com/albums/zz238/estcrh/samurai%20chainmail%20and%20armor%20samples/?action=view&current=100_3276.jpg

it looks as if the edge was sewn in and then in every so often a stitch would be added in to help the maile hold form to the cloth. normally i do not like the Japanese maile, because of the use of round smaller connection rings, but this is a prime example of the use of oval rings and i truly like it.

i would like to ask though how you made the oval rings, ive done a little looking around for options but i haven't found any i really care for.
The pictures are all from antique Edo period 1800s samurai kusari and are not modern at all. If you follow the link I posted you will see the actual clothing I used for the close ups you see.

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Posted on Thu Feb 25, 2010 11:01 am
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First of all – I have to offer an apology to everyone who read my first reply. I didn't want to sound rude. I shouldn't have written this just before I went to bed.

I have only two books, which have something to do with Japanese Armour.

„An introduction to Japanese Armour“, edited by the Royal Armouries Museums, Leeds in 2002
(ISBN: 0 948092 51 3)
Stone, G.C. (1999): A glossary of the construction, decoration and use of arms and armor in all countries and in all times; Dover Publications Inc., Mineola, New York.
(ISBN Paperback: 0 486 40726 8, first published in 1934)

Both books say, that chain-mail was mainly used to connect metal or leather plates and not for complete suits (like your picture 100_3368.jpg shows). And Stone also says that the rings in japanese armour are often thinner than in european armour, because of a higher steel quality. - So much for my knowledge about japanese mail armour. I told you I didn't know much.
You write that the main part of the armour is made of chain-mail and some of your pictures tell us the same. There's the contradiction.

By the way – Stone became an expert because of his hobby, his interest for arms and armour. He was not a professional archeologist or historian. In my opinion there are a few parallels between Stone and you ...

In my opinion two of your pictures are very interesting:
100_3368.jpg (same picture as above)
100_3389.jpg

The first one shows a typical "Japanese 4 in1" with round lying rings and oval standing rings.
The second one shows the same weave with only round rings. (Oval rings are only used to connect the mail with the plates.) In Stone's book this is called "etruscan" and on one or two internet sites I found the names "roman" or "italian" for this weave.

@ Dinwar:
Thanks for the links. Please take a look at the „interesting online publication“. If you click on chapter 4 „Before Beginning“ and scroll down near the end, you'll find a few sentences about mail Smile

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Posted on Thu Feb 25, 2010 11:58 am
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I knew it mentioned maille, just not full suites of maille. I could very well be wrong--my internet connection is crap at the hotel I'm at, and I haven't read through that link in probably four years (not since finishing my maille shirt).

Quote:
The pictures are all from antique Edo period 1800s samurai kusari and are not modern at all. If you follow the link I posted you will see the actual clothing I used for the close ups you see.
Personally, I like when there are both modern and ancient examples to look at. Gives me more options to work with when I make my own stuff. Smile

You seem to dislike the ancient stuff. I'm probably wrong, but this is the impression I'm getting. Why is that? Not that there's anything wrong with it if you do dislike the old stuff--to each his own, after all--I'm just curious. The whole reason I'm into maille is because of European armor in the Middle Ages, and most of the people who work with maille I've spoken to in Real Life are the same way, so you're an anomaly, which always interest scientists.

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Posted on Thu Feb 25, 2010 7:12 pm
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I don't know much if anything about Japanese maille (kusari), but I do remember reading that maille was mainly used for the samurai in connecting pieces of plating together, which is what most people are saying. I do however remember reading that there were a couple examples, and it seems that american samurai has some, that maille was sewn inside garments to help protect the foot soldiers or those who could not afford the samurai armor. I am trying to find where I read that and if I find it I will post.

See his example here:
http://s831.photobucket.com/albums/zz238/estcrh/samurai%20chainmail%20and%20armor%20samples/?action=view&current=100_6087.jpg


I did find some of the first information I first encountered when looking into Japanese maille a couple of years ago. If you go 3/4 the way down the page it talks about maille. I have tried in the past to get in contact with this person, but don't remember ever getting a response.

http://www.sengokudaimyo.com/katchu/katchu.html


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Posted on Thu Feb 25, 2010 8:09 pm
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Catweazle, at the time that Stone wrote his book, any decent research was quite hard to do, you either had to actually go to the country whose objects you were doing research on or go to a museum or private collection in order to gather information, that limited the amount of actual artifacts you could see first hand. There was no internet and people were not able to share pictures and information like we can today. Stone simply did not get to see the types of Japanese chain armor that has started to surface recently and you can not write about something that in your mind does not exist. Since then other people have repeated the same thing over and over until it was accepted as the absolute truth. I also read the exact same references as you and until I actually saw several kusari katabira for sale in a online Japanese gallery I believed that the Japanese did not produce or use chain armor. The gallery did not know what they had and they only wanted to make a few $$$$!!...in fact they called these chain armors "ninja chain mail"and knew nothing about them. I purchased these items and started to look for more, and sure enough I started to find more kusari items. If the Japanese did not use chain for individual armor or rarely used it as most research states then it would be very rare and impossible to find..let alone buy, but that is certainly not the case. In fact it looks like Japan was probably the last major culture to make and use chain and traditional armor, and traditional weapons, as they had a feudal society well into the 1800s. The Japanese were using these items right up to the time of our civil war and yet its almost impossible to find any information on the subject. The internet has made finding these kusari items possible. Both chain styles were used to make all kinds of kusari garments (4 in 1 round and oval connecting links) and I own examples of both kinds. people will just have to update their information as you cant argue with a mountain of proof.

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Posted on Thu Feb 25, 2010 8:43 pm
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Quote:
The pictures are all from antique Edo period 1800s samurai kusari and are not modern at all. If you follow the link I posted you will see the actual clothing I used for the close ups you see. Personally, I like when there are both modern and ancient examples to look at. Gives me more options to work with when I make my own stuff. Smile[/quote}

You seem to dislike the ancient stuff. I'm probably wrong, but this is the impression I'm getting. Why is that? Not that there's anything wrong with it if you do dislike the old stuff--to each his own, after all--I'm just curious. The whole reason I'm into maille is because of European armor in the Middle Ages, and most of the people who work with maille I've spoken to in Real Life are the same way, so you're an anomaly, which always interest scientists.
..........Dinwar....there are PLENTY of modern examples online for people to see...my examples are the REAL thing, and the only ones I know of.....the pictures I have posted are for people who are truly interested in how real chain armor that was actually worn and used by someone was constructed. Up until now it was virtually impossible to find pictures like I have made public and shared with anyone who is interested in the methods used to make these historical items. The reason so many people are fixated on European armor and weapons???...because thats what they learned about and were brought up with...knights in shining armour and all that stuff....there were no other choices available. BUT...can you actually buy and own antique European armor and weapons???..not unless you are very wealthy..which is why people recreate instead. And as for ANCIENT...what do you consider ancient??...I own a full set of traditional samurai armor made in the 1600s and several swords from the 1500s and 1600s...and I certainly am not wealthy. It costs as much for one piece of European armor as a whole suit of samurai armor. By the time Europeans and most other cultures had packed away their armor and traditional weapons for uniforms and started mowing down people with cannons and guns the samurai still wore and used armor and traditional weapons. Japan is the last frontier for collecting as the Japanese are currently ransacking their entire country and selling their history to the highest bidder, all the European armor and weapons were bought up long ago leaving nothing for the average person to own...except recreations.

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Posted on Thu Feb 25, 2010 9:14 pm
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american samurai wrote:
people will just have to update their information as you can't argue with a mountain of proof.

Well, there are two professions who can ...
...theologians - they will just ignore the mountain
...geologists - they'll draw their hammer and start with artificial erosion Coif LoL

If you have this mountain of proof, it is up to you to make this information available. The pictures are a good start.

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Posted on Thu Feb 25, 2010 9:39 pm
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Catweazle wrote:
american samurai wrote:
people will just have to update their information as you can't argue with a mountain of proof.

Well, there are two professions who can ...
...theologians - they will just ignore the mountain
...geologists - they'll draw their hammer and start with artificial erosion Coif LoL

If you have this mountain of proof, it is up to you to make this information available. The pictures are a good start.
your right about theologians....and a picture is worth a thousand words..
According to most researchers this full set of Japanese (samurai) chain armor or kusari gusoku does not exist. This armor was obviously not meant to be worn underneath any other armor, it was not meant to be hidden under some other clothing, it is constructed almost entirely of round butted rings and not oval and the chain was fully exposed and was never covered. It is a complete set of stand alone chain armor. Thats a lot of contradictions in just 1 picture.

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