Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1221 Kamakura samurai
Subject: 侍 samurai warrior
Culture: Japanese
Setting: Kamakura shogunate, 1185-1333
Evolution500 Kofun warrior > 752 Nara bushi 1020 Heian bushi > 1221 Kamakura samurai

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Withers 2010 p79
"Samurai warrior culture developed from a series of territorial wars during the Kamakura period amongst the Minamoto, Fujiwara and Taira clans.  These feudal groups were constantly at war with each other, and the Samurai (literally meaning 'to serve') were drawn from these battle-hardened warriors.
    "This period of Japanese history is viewed as the highpoint of of the Samurai warrior, with many stories chronicling their honour, bravery and stoicism in battle.  Ironically, this period also allowed the Samurai, as privileged members of society, to kill any unfortunate peasants who offended them.  It is also no surprise that some of the best Japanese swords were manufactured during this period."

* Friday 2004 p10
"Bushi class-consciousness -- a sense of warriors as a separate estate -- did not begin to emerge until the thirteenth century, after the Kamakura shogunate was in place.  The new institution created the category of shogunal retainer (gokenin) as a self-conscious class of individuals with special privileges and responsibilities.  It also narrowed the range of social classes from which bushi came, by eliminating or supplanting the miyako no musha houses in all military affairs outside the capital.  Its founder, Minamoto Yoritomo, consciously helped foster this new sense of warrior identity by holding hunts and archery competitions, which were staged in an atmosphere not entirely unlike those of medieval European tournaments."

​*​ Bryant/McBride 1991 p

*Bottomley 1988 p


* Armure et guerrier 2011 p93 (Thom Richardson, "Les armes et armures de l'époque Kofun à l'introduction des arms à feu," p91-97)
"De la fin de l'époque Heian à l'époque Kamakura (1185-1392), les armeés japonaises eurent recours à des archers à cheval appuyés par des corps d'infanterie auxiliaires mobiles. Les samouraïs qui comattaient à cheval étaient essentiellement armés d'un grand arc (daikyū ou yumi). Ce type d'arc n'existait qu'au Japon: composite et de grande taille, il avait une poignée située au tiers de la longueur du corps à partir de la base, les branches de longueur inégale exerçant une même traction sur la flèche en raison du soin apporté à la fabrication de l'arme. Il était constitué de trois bands de bois de mûrier doublées, devant et derrière, d'épaisseurs de bambou. Tout le corps de l'arc était laqué noir ou rouge, les ligatures en rotin étant laquées dans une couleur formant contraste. Au Xe siècle, la longueur du corps, de 2,20 m, était fixe. L'archer tirait la corde avec le pouce, comme en Asie centrale, mais il portait un gant en cuir spécial (yugake) renforcé au pouce. Le gant, qui était porté à la main droite, ne couvrait que le pouce et les deux premiers doigts. Les flèches en bambou (ya) étaient transportées dans un carquois porté à la hanche droite. Les premiers carquois (ebira) se présentaient sous la forme de un simple cadre. Les flèches y étaient mises pointe en bas, leur fût étant attaché au cadre par un cordon."

* Friday 2004 p68-72
"The earliest clear reference to a composite bow in Japan is a poem by Minamoto Yorimasa (1104-80), Prince Mochihito's co-conspirator against Taira Kiyomori in 1180: 
Omowazu ya            Unthinkable!
Tanarasu yumi ni      That I should forsake you even for a night
fusu take no              would be like separating a bamboo slat
ichi yo mo kimi ni      from a familiar bow.
hanaru beshi to wa.
    "These first compound bows, called fusetake yumi, featured a single strip of bamboo laminated to the outside face of the wood, using a paste (called nibe) made from fish bladders.  Sometime around the turn of the thirteenth century, a second bamboo laminate was added to the inside face of the bow, to create the sammai uchi yumi.  In the fifteenth century, two additional bamboo salts were added to the sides, so that the wooden core was now completely encased, producing the shihōchiku yumi.  ....
    "Simple wood bows will not bend very deeply without breaking, and over-flexing composites of wood and bamboo stress the adhesive and makes the laminations separate.  To achieve significant power, therefore, wood or wood and bamboo bows must be long.  And medieval Japanese bows were long -- some over 2.5 meters -- which would have made them impossibly awkward to use from horseback but for their unique shape, with the grip placed a third of the way up from the bottom, rather than in the middle in the manner of European longbows.
    "Some historians have speculated that this unusual grip was adopted to facilitate the use of the weapon by mounted warriors, but there is evidence that the shape of the bow predates its use from horseback.  Reports by Chinese envoys to Japan, recorded in the chronicles of the Wei dynasty, for example, indicate that the Japanese were using 'wooden bows made with shorter lower part and longer upper part' by the mid-third century, while making no mention of equestrian culture in Japan at that time.
    "Other scholars argue that the lopsided proportions were originally necessary to balance the bending characteristics of the wood: simple bows, produced from a single piece of wood, were made from young trees, using the root end of teh tree for the lower part of the bow stave.  The branch end of the tree is, however, springier than the root end.  Thus the grip needed to be located closer to the bottom of the bow -- the stiffer end of the wood -- in order to balance out the elasticity of the weapon, so that it would draw evenly, without over-stressing either end.
    "Whatever the initial reason for its adoption, gripping the bow two-thirds of the way down its length maximizes its rebound power and minimizes fatigue to the archer far better than the more familiar centered grip.  Careful analysis of the mechanics of a bow pulled to full draw and released shows that the Japanese grip places the archer's hand at one of two nodes of oscillation during the shooting movement, which means that little shock is imparted to the left (gripping) hand and arm when the string is released.  In contrast, locating the grip at the center of the bow stave puts the gripping hand at a point of maximal oscillation, and thereby imparts significant shock to the arm when the string is released.
    "The arrows in use during the Nara period averaged around 71 cm and were relatively thin.  Those favored by the bushi, from the mid-Heian period onward, were much thicker and markedly longer, averaging between 86 and 96 cm.  The shafts were usually made of bamboo, but in ancient times they were also sometimes made from willow or cane.  The bamboo was cut during the early winter, shaved to remove the joints and outer skin, and straightened by softening it in hot sand.  The nock for the bowstring was usually placed just above the joint, and at the end farthest from the root of a growing plant, so that the shaft tapered toward the nock.  Arrowheads were mounted into the shafts by long, slender tangs, in the same manner as sword blades were mounted into hilts, and assumed a bewildering variety of shapes and sizes: narrow, four-sided heads; and whistling heads (used for signaling).  Fletchings were made from the tail or wing feathers of a variety of birds, with those of hawks or eagles preferred, primarily for aesthetic reasons.  Most arrows sported three fletchings, but some -- particularly those designed for use with very large arrowheads -- featured four.  Arrow shafts were often marked with the name of the owner, so that kills could be identified.
    "Heian- and Kamakura-period warriors carried their shafts on their right hips, in devices called ebira, which resembled small wicker chairs.  The lower section of this apparatus was box-shaped, with a grid of leather or bamboo strips across the top.  Arrows were thrust through this grid, and then bound by a loose cord to the top of an openwork frame that rose from the back of the box.  To draw them, the archer grasped the shaft just above the head, lifted it free of the grid, and then pulled it downward and outward until it cleared the cord."


*Friday 2004 p86-87
"Often described in English sources as 'halberds,' naginata were in fact more like glaives, featuring a long (up to 85-100 cm) curved blade mounted to an oval haft of about 120 to about 150 cm in length, by means of a lengthy tang inserted into a slot in the haft, and held in place by pegs.  Unlike the unidirectional hoko, a naginata can be used to sweep, cut or strike, as well as to thrust, and can even be twirled like a baton to keep opponents at bay!  It is, in other words, a personal weapon, designed to be used by a warrior fighting largely as an individual, and to maximize his ability to deal with mulitple opponents as once.  ...
    "Exactly when naginata first appeared is difficult to ascertain.  There are almost no extant examples of naginata blades that predate the mid-Kamakura period, and none that can be reliably dated to Heian times.  The earliest clear reference to a naginata in the written record is a chronicle entry from 1146, which describes a warrior being startled by thunder and reaching for a weapon 'commonly called a naginata.'  A document dated three months later reports the investigation of a raid on an estate in Kawachi province, in which the perpetrators carried off '20 head of good oxen, 3,000 sheaves of cut rice, 20 haramaki armors, 100 swords [tachi], and 10,000 [sicnaginata.'  Both sources write the word 'naginata' phonetically, leaving little doubt that the weapon must have been around by this time.  On the other hand, as Kondō Yoshikazu points out, the phrase 'commonly called' (zoku ni gō su) in the first entry suggests that the term 'naginata' was not yet widely known, supporting the conclusion that the weapon was relatively new in the late twelfth century."


* Friday 2004 p79
"In early medieval usage, single-edged long swords were most commonly called 'tachi,' written with any of several characters or compounds, while the term 'katana' referred to what was later called a tantō or wakizashi -- that is, a short blade worn thrust through one's belt.  Companion swords of this sort were also known as 'sayamaki' ('wound case'), because of the wrapped design of their scabbards, or 'koshi-gatana' ('hip sword'), because of the way they were carried."

* Friday 2004 p80, 82-84
"The history of the curved tachi favored by early medieval warriors is the subject of lively debate and speculation but little consensus, spurred on by evidence that is not only incomplete but equivocating.  Medieval tachi combine elements from several earlier types of sword, but the sequential relationship -- if any -- between these ancestral blades is far from clear.  And efforts to put together a complete picture of sword evolution are further complicated by the dearth of surviving examples of swords from the early and middle Heian period.
    "[....]  Whatever its sequence of evolution might have been, the curved blade undoubtedly enhanced the sword's cutting ability.  A blade curved backward, away from its cutting edge, promotes a smooth, slicing cut and distributes impact more evenly along the whole of the weapon than a straight blade, reducing the shock transmitted back to the wielder.  Offsetting the hilt away from the blade also augments wrist movement and power when using the sword one-handed.
    "These considerations, combined with the timing of the curved tachi's appearance -- coinciding with the emergence of the bushi, who were mounted warriors -- have led many scholars to link the shape of the early medieval tachi to the demands of cavalry warfare.  The straight-bladed tachi of the Nara and early Heian periods, goes this argument, were developed for infantry usage and calls for slashing and cutting, rather than stabbing.  Thus the curved tachi was introduced in response to a new style of fighting favored by a new order of warriors.
    "But the hypothesis that the medieval tachi was designed as a cavalryman's weapon ignores more evidence than it embraces.  ....
    "[....]  [T]he written and pictorial record shows that, while both the chokutō and the curved tachi may indeed have been cavalrymen's weapons, neither were cavalry weapons: there is not a single example, in any document, text or drawing produced before the thirteenth century, that depicts warriors wielding swords from horseback.  Throughout the Heian and Kamakura period, bushi employed swords in street fights, and when unhorsed or otherwise forced to fight on foot, but seldom while mounted ...." 

​*​ Bryant/McBride 1991 p

*Bottomley 1988 p


* Friday 2004 p90
"In lieu of hand-held shields, bushi adopted heavy body armor specifically devised for fighting with bow and arrow from horseback.  There were five principal styles of armor to be seen on early medieval battlefields (ōyoroiharamakiharamaki-yoroidōmaru and hara-ate), but all five were constructed from the same fundamental components.
    "The monadic constituents of Japanese armors were tiny plates, or lamellae, called sane.  Most were trapezoidal in shape, with curved, diagonal top edges and flat bottoms.  The size of the lamellae decreased over time; during the Heian-Kamakura age, they were usually about 7 or 8 by 3 or 4 cm.  Each was perforated with thirteen or nineteen holes, arranged in two or three columns.  Individual lamellae were stacked with each overlapping the one to its right, and laced together with leather or braided silk cords through the bottom three holes to form plates, called saneita.  The saneita were lacquered, to protect them from moisture, and then laced together in rows that overlapped downward, like shingles on an upside-down roof.  The laces connected the third row of holes in the upper plate to the first two rows of holes in the plate below, so that the lower plates hung down outside the upper ones, on cords roughly half the length of the saneita themselves.  This arrangement made the resulting armor collapsible, allowing the upper part to fold into the lower part like a telescope, for transport and storage."

* Bottomley 1988 p

* Bryant/McBride 1991 p


*​ Bryant/McBride 1991 p

*Bottomley 1988 p