In Japan today there are only a handful of authentic kacchu shi, or artisanalarmourers, remaining who still make Japanese helmets and armour. Onlythose who are truly passionate about their craft have been able to continuethis centuries-old tradition.
The repair and reconditioning of an old suit of armour can take up to a year ofwork, and simpler parts such as some helmets can take one or two months.Making a new suit of armour from scratch, which carefully replicates theancient styles and features of the Heian, Kamakura or Muromachi periods,can take anything from three to five years.
First, cowhide is dried and cut into about three thousand small plates calledkozane which are pierced with about fourteen holes, and then overlappedone by one until the entire armour is covered. They must then be joinedtogether with silk thread in a painstaking process called odoshi. A minimumof three hundred metres of silk cord is usually used to braid a complete suitof armour.
Finally, the armour is decorated with different kinds of motifs such as dragons,dragonflies or plants, one of the most common being the chrysanthemum,which is the national flower of Japan, and also the Imperial emblem. Thearmour is finished with a very careful lacquer called urushi, which, in additionto protecting all the pieces, gives them a spectacular aesthetic.
A true craftsman of Japanese armour produces work that is worthy of thehighest honours and accolades; and this skill and artistry required by thekacchu shi throughout his life requires the utmost perseverance.
This new book Ninniku Yoroi: The Armour of Perseverance, seeks to providean introduction to the fascinating world of samurai armour, along witha detailed exploration of the evolution of the design of these distinctiveprotective suits over the centuries. The Yoroi is examined not only from theperspective of their use in combat, but also as artifacts of artistic beauty andas expressions of power within the warrior Japanese warrior caste.