Japanese armour was an article of great beauty and impressive craftsmanship. For seven centuries the form was almost unchanged and included 23 different items that composed six main areas. Bound with silk braids, the colour and closeness of the binding indicated the warrior’s rank. The mon, or family crest, was often displayed on the helmet and identified each warrior – for example a chrysanthemum flower was the symbol of the imperial household. Even when out of armour, the samurai always wore two formal swords (daisho or the ‘long and the short’) with their ceremonial dress.

The samurai used several weapons including the bow and arrow, spear, and matchlock gun, but it was the sword that was “the soul of the samurai.” In addition to their incredible quality, being both flexible and strong, the great beauty of the Japanese sword fostered legends surrounding both them and the men who crafted them. The samurai themselves believed that every sword housed a divine spirit.

Art Gallery of Greater Victoria
1185 - 1868
© 2006, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. All Rights Reserved.

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans