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Japanese Chain Garments Used as Armor
Article © MAIL User: Worldantiques

Image: kusarigusoku.jpg

Japanese chain armor, also known as kusari gusoku, samurai chain mail armor, ninja armor,ninja chain mail, is different than traditional Japanese or samurai armor and has nothing to do with ninjas despite the word "ninja" being used on occasion to describe this type of armored clothing. Japanese chain armor was used by samurai and their retainers; samurai police and security forces were known to have used chain armor. Other non-samurai individuals may have used this type of protection.

Traditional samurai armor used chain in its construction but the chain was not usually the majority of the defensive material used; the chain was just used in certain areas in conjunction with iron plates which made up the majority of the defensive material of traditional samurai armor. Japanese chain mail armor on the other hand consisted primarily of chain sewn to cloth (and sometimes leather) and was worn as a type of defensive clothing. The chain can be exposed or hidden between 2 layers of cloth. Some chain garments are very fancy, with brocade or colored cloth, heavy chain, and leather trim and some chain garments are basic and utilitarian, using plain coarse cloth and lighter chain. The chain in all armors seems to have been coated in black lacquer to protect it from rust as the Japanese environment is harsh and over 100 yrs later many such armors still have some or most of the black lacquer left intact.

Small armored plates were attached to the chain armor in certain areas but the majority of the defensive material was the chain. In addition to square or rectangular iron plates, small hexagon armor plates or "kikko" would be attached to the chain or sewn to the fabric of the "kusari" garments; the kikko can be exposed or hidden between layers of cloth. Kikko can be made from iron or hardened leather and is often hidden in the collars of chain jackets or "kusari katabira" and was used in other various places as well.

Japanese chain armor comes in various forms of clothing or garments including, jackets, vests, gauntlets and gloves, hoods, thigh and shin guards ,and socks. 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 armor with the individual pieces having their own names such as "kusari katabira" for chain jacket, "kusari zukin" for chain hood, "kusari tabi" for chain socks, "kusari kote" for chain gloves, "kusari haidate" for chain thigh guards, "kusari suneate" for chain shin guards etc. The type of pattern most often used in the construction of the chain is called a ...4 in 1...pattern or "namban-kusari", namban refers to foreigners or foreign influenced.

Much more research still needs to be done on this fascinating style of armor. I have included a picture with a sample of the 2 most common types of kusari and a picture of a full set of Edo period 1800s kusari gusoku.

Image: 2_types_of_kusari.jpg
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