Samurai armor

Helmet, Mask, Cuirass, and Collar of an Armor (Gusoku)

The breastplate of this armor is overlaid with a tooled, gilded, and painted piece of leather likely imported from Holland, reflecting the growing interest in European culture and goods in Japan in the eighteenth century, and the creative ways in which this interest was manifested in armorers’ art. Decorative European leather, often originally intended as a wall covering, was used to embellish a range of equipment, including sword mountings and equestrian tacks.

Armor full set (Gusoku)

It features a kusazuri (skirt) with an extremely rare color scheme of silk lacings in red, yellowish-green, black, and white. The mon (heraldic badge), in the form of three whirling commas (mitsudomoe mon), is that of the Okabe family, feudal lords of Kishiwada (present day Kishiwada City in Osaka Prefecture). The armor is signed on the inside of the helmet: Eichizan no Kuni Toyohara jū Bamen Tomotsugu Saku (Bamen Tomotsugu living in Eichizan province, Toyohara village).

Armor (Yaroi)

The yoroi is characterized by a cuirass that wraps around the body and is closed by a separate panel (waidate) on the right side and by a deep four-sided skirt. In use from around the tenth to the fourteenth century, yoroi were generally worn by warriors on horseback.
The breastplate is covered with stenciled leather bearing the image of the powerful Buddhist deity Fudō Myō-ō, whose fierce mien and attributes of calmness and inner strength were highly prized by the samurai.

Helmet, Cuirass, Shoulder Defenses (Sode), and Arm Defenses of an Armor (Nimaido Gusoku)

Armor embossed in high relief came into vogue in the eighteenth century, a period of peace and stability under Tokugawa rule. With less concern about battlefield functionality, armorers explored new decorative possibilities, including embossing, a technique that would have compromised the armor’s defensive qualities, since it created catch points for an opponent’s weapons. The Myōchin, among the most well-known armor-making families of the period, specialized in this difficult but spectacular technique.

Armor (Gusoku)

This example comes from the armory of Date Yoshimura (1703–1746), daimyo (lord) of Sendai. The helmet bowl, signed Saotome Iyetada, dates from the sixteenth century; the remainder of the armor was constructed in the eighteenth century. The breastplate is inscribed inside with the armorer’s name, Myōchin Munesuke (1688–1735). The embossed ornament on the solid iron plates is characteristic of the Myōchin school.

Armor (Yaroi)

This armor was donated to the Kurama Temple, near Kyoto, by one of the Ashikaga shoguns. During the late Edo period, it passed into the possession of Sakai, daimyo (lord) of Wakasa, then military governor of Kyoto. Sakai had the armor refurbished and its silk lacings replaced with leather ones in the syle of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The oldest part of the armor, the helmet bowl, dates from the late Kamakura period (early fourteenth century).

Armor (Gusoku)

Although constructed in the traditional sixteenth-century gusoku (complete set) fashion, this is actually an example of the revival of earlier armor styles during the Edo period. It was part of the large collection of Japanese arms and armor formed by Arms and Armor Department founding curator Bashford Dean around 1900, during his extended stays in Japan for scientific research. The armor was included in the Metropolitan Museum’s 1903 loan exhibition of Japanese arms and armor from Dean’s private collection, which the Museum purchased in 1904.

Armor (Gusoku)

The breastplate and backplate of this distinctive armor are constructed of hinged iron plates. This design affords a similar degree of protection as solid-plate armor but provides greater flexibility and a closer fit for the wearer. Hinged cuirasses of the seventeenth century are rare, and were among the most expensive and time-consuming types of armor to produce. They are believed to have been used primarily by the Uesugi family and associated domains.

Armor (Yaroi)

During the eighteenth century, there was a revival of interest in medieval Japanese culture. As the demand for historical styles of armor began to increase among the wealthy lords, contemporary armorers studied the older forms and techniques in order to duplicate them. This example imitates a yoroi of the twelfth to thirteenth century. It is characterized by a helmet with prominent rivet heads and a wide, flaring neck guard and by a large cuirass with a separate panel on the right side, large square shoulder guards, and a deep four-sided skirt.

Armor (Gusoku) of the Maeda Family

The armor is decorated in several places with the plum blossom mon (heraldic emblem) of the Maeda family, who were daimyo (feudal lords) of Kaga Province (the southern part of present-day Ishikawa Prefecture) and the second largest landowners in Japan after the Tokugawa family.

Edo Period Mask

Muneakira’s masterpiece, this mask by Muneakira was already famous when it was first published in 1763. It represents Jikokuten, guardian of the East, one of the Four Kings of Heaven. The mask is also one of the few to retain its original silk head covering sewn to the upper edges.

Cuirass (Armor for the Torso and Hips) and Greaves (Lower Leg Defenses)

The lavish decoration of this cuirass focuses on the theme of archery. The silver character yumi in the center of the breastplate is Japanese for “bow.” Below, there is a golden arrow entwined by dragons. A large sachihoko, a mythological animal that could control rain and therefore create favorable conditions for the use of bow and arrow, is depicted in silver and gold on the backplate.

Cuirass of a Dō-maru

This armor is believed to have been given by Date Masamune (died 1636), one of the most famous daimyo (lords) of his time, to a high-ranking samurai in his service, Shiraishi Bungo.

Armor (Gusoku)

The breastplate is embossed in high relief with designs featuring a dragon and clouds. Made in late 18th–19th century in Japan.
For the manufacture of this armor, the masters used Iron, lacquer, gold, silver, copper alloy, leather, silk

Armor (Gusoku)

The helmet crest (maidate) has a gilt-copper moon flanked by rising silver waves. The shoulder guards (sode) are decorated in gold lacquer with the image of a rabbit springing from seafoam, possibly a reference to Chikubushima, a popular Noh play.

All the licenses and royalties belong to Metropolitan Museum

Things You May Wonder about the Ninja

How can you become a Ninja?
One can only become a ninja if he/she is born in a ninja family in a ninja clan. There were only two ninja clans in Japan (Iga and Koga) though hundreds of ninjas moved to Edo (Tokyo) during the Edo period. If you were born in the Ninja community, you could become a ninja. Ninja training requires a lot effort and commitment, that is why the culture of ninja gradually disappeared since there was not much need for professional ninjas in the Meiji period.

How did the Ninja train?
A lot of theories about the way ninjas trained remains a mystery because ninjas were mostly considered spies and they did not leave much written records behind them. The ninjutsu is a concept that was recently put together in 1900s.
And also in Japan there are dozens of RYU’s (an independent training way or training school) which differ from one another. The oldest ninja training Ryu is Tokagure Ryu though not all ninjas trained in the Tokagure Ryu way. Almost all ninjas trained on stealth walking, fast running and surviving in the wild, making poisons and explosives from the early childhood.

Were there female Ninja?
Yes! If you were born in the Ninja community, you can become a female ninja. Female ninjas knew how to use the ninja weapons but they also disguised as a beautiful girl to seduce the or pretended a sick girl in order to sneak into the Samurai mansion. The female ninjas were called kunaiichi, their sword was different from male ninjas’ sword (not straight and does not have a hand guard).

If a ninja and Samurai had a fight who would win?
If it is an individual fight, the samurai is likely to win though the ninja often used the weapon called kusari gama (sickle with chains) which can be quite effective to stop a samurai with two sharp blades.
1- Samurai were the only ones who carried 2 swords (katana and wakizashi). Ninja usually did not carry any swords. Some ninjas carried only 1 short sword.
2-Samurai were the only ones who traveled by a horse. A samurai with horse is more advantageous than a ninja without a horse.
3-Samurai are more experienced in combat fighting. Ninja specialized in espionage and covert fighting.
4- The samurai were not allowed to have any job except fighting (in the medieval times). Ninja were farmers who were hired as mercenaries.
If it is a small-group fight in a rugged terrain, the ninja may win. The ninja have better survival skills compared to the samurai. If it is a large-group fight, the samurai are likely win.
The ninja and the samurai usually collaborated. However, in certain occasions, they fought against each other. During the war of Tensho-Iga (1581), the ninja clans were devastated by the samurai (The forces of Oda Nobunaga). Even though the ninja were defeated, their guerrilla fighting skills impressed the samurai. The samurai started using the ninja spies after the 1580s.

Were there other warriors in feudal Japan besides the samurai and ninja?
Yes there were warrior monks who challenged the samurai clans for a long time mostly known as sohei. The most well known warrior monk group was Ikko Ikki who ruled some regions in the Northwest Japan in the 1500s. Ikko Ikkis belonged to the Jodo Shinshu Honganji sect of buddhism who used Ishiyama Honganji as their headquarter. They did not wear a helmet and mostly fought by pole arms. They caused heavy damages to the armies of Oda Nobunaga who eventually defeated them in 1580. Similar to Ikko Ikki there were also Yamabushi, the mountain hermits who practiced shuugendo (the esoteric religion that is the combination of Buddhism and shintoism). They were close to the Ikko Ikki and ninjas. Many researchers claim there are similarities between the tactics and lifestyles of yamabushi and the ninjas. Yamabushi disappeared from the history along with Ikko Ikki when Oda Nobunaga burned Ishiyama Honganji in 1580 that was located right where Osaka Castle is located today.


The role of Ninja in Feudal Japan

The ninjas were most active in the 1600s and 1700s being hired as spies and assassins for the daimyos. Although their image is usually associated by assassination, most of the time they were spies who could walk very silently, run very fast and make poisons and simple explosives. They usually worked as individuals or small groups.
In Japanese, ninjas are usually called “shinobi” which means spy. Spies always existed in the history of Japan. In the 12th century two clans in the central Japan area, Iga and Koga, were a little different from the other samurai clans. They did not have a typical samurai system and they had more communal lifestyles. Some families in Iga and Koga (e.g. The Mochizuki family) were in close contact with the Yamabushi (mountain hermits) who practiced shuugendo and some families in Iga and Koga practiced distinct martial arts, the most well known was Tokagure Ryu. These two societies emerged as the first ninja clans but they usually did not fight for or against the other samurai clans in battles except for defending their territories against Oda Nobunaga’s forces in 1579 and 1581. They won in 1579 but lost in 1581.

The History of Ninja

Japanese people believe that the ninja have some supernatural powers such as controlling others’ minds or walking on the river. This is perhaps because people in the Iga and Koga regions had long been practicing hypnosis and botanics that arrived from China in the 6th century when Buddhism was introduced to Japan.
• Prince Shotoku (574 ~ 622) reportedly had a famous spy named Otomono Sahito who is considered to be the fist ninja in history.
Despite the fact that the Iga and Koka towns are very close to Nara and Kyoto, the residents were not ruled by any samurai clan and commonly practiced shuugendo (esoteric Buddhism that promoted mountain training).
During the Nara period (710~794) the yamabushi (back-cap wearing mountain monks) emerged. They abstained from pleasurable things, maintained simple lives in the mountains and they were good fighters.
When the Tang Dynasty in China fell in 907, many monks and generals came to Japan and shared their knowledge of warfare and the eastern philosophy mostly around Central Japan including the towns of Iga and Koga.
In 1162, a samurai from the Genji clan moved to Iga after losing a battle against the Taira clan and renounced his samurai status. He changed his name to Daisuke Tokagure. He later met with Kain Doshi, a Chinese monk who was exiled from China to Iga. Together they developed Tokagure-ryu, the first organized practice of defense and stealth techniques. These techniques are also called ninpo-taijitsu.
Historical records indicate the existence of shinobi during the Muromachi Period. There are references to ninjas who secretly burned the Hachimanyama castle and infiltrated the Ototsu Castle during the Nanbukochu wars (1336~1392).
During the Sengoku period (1477~1615) everyone was aware of the guerrilla fighters in Iga and Koka who maintained a communal life different from other towns in feudal Japan. Oda Nobunaga’s son tried to invade the town of Iga in 1579 but got defeated badly.
In 1581, Oda Nobunaga attacked the town again with the army of 40,000 men, The ninja were vastly outnumbered and lost against the army. Oda Nobunaga reportedly killed most of the Ninja back then during the Tensha-Iga battle.
It is said that Hattori Hanzo from Iga, saved the life of Tokugawa Ieyasu in two occasions and was given the task of guarding the Shogunate in Tokyo. The district known as Hanzo-mon in Tokyo refers to the area where Hanzo’s ninja guards used to live.
During the Edo period (1603 ~ 1868) the need for ninja gradually decreased because of the peaceful political environment and the Kogi-Onmitsu, 3000 strong intelligence agents working for the shogunate.
Today there are dozens of Tokagure-ryu ninpo and ninjutsu dojos in and outside of Japan. The leader of Tokagure-ryu of Japan is Masaaki Hatsumi who is in his late 70s and the name of his organization is Bujinkan. Genbukan Dojo which also teaches ninpo techniques has been popular all around the world.

 Ninja facts

-Although some people consider ninjas as sneaky disloyal assassins, there are not many cases where ninjas were not loyal to their master while a number of times some samurai betrayed their masters (e.g. Akechi Mitsuhide).
-Since the ninja could not own horses and did not carry swords unlike the samurai, they had to run so fast in order to survive. Some ninjas could run more than 50km in one day. They trained up in the mountains to have larger lungs.
-Not being detected was one of the most important things for the ninja. That’s why they did not smoke and eat spicy stuff before the missions. They always took herbal showers in order to not to have any bad body odor that can alert the enemy.
-Ninjas mostly ate red beans and black rice believing that black food made them healthier. Ninjas ate lots of vegetables and carried cookies that are made of dried red bean paste.
-Most of what is known about ninja and ninjutsu are criticized for being fiction because the ninjas were spies who did not leave written records behind them. While there are hundreds of black and white photos of samurais from the 1800s, there is no verified ninja photo from the 1800s. What we know about the ninjas today are mostly the word of mouth.
-The concept of ninja became popular in the Western World when James Bond fought against a group of ninja in the 1967 movie titled you only live twice.
-Ninjas usually did not wear a black outfit in order to not stand out. Their preferred color was navy blue , the least visible color in the dark.
-Ninjas were mostly farmers, the influence of farming can be seen on most of their weapons, particularly the sickle and chain and the ninja knife kunai.
-Ninjas were expected to weigh less than 60 kgs, not because they may cause the roofs they are running on collapse but being lighter and nimble helped them spend less time looking for the food and run faster.
-The shuriken (ninja star) were rarely used as the ninja cannot carry many of them (heavy and makes noise) and it makes more sense to keep it and use it as a knife. Occasionally the ninja threw them in the opposing directions to distract the enemy.
-Many Japanese castles and temples have a kind of floor called nightingale floor, the ones that squeak one someone steps on. Those floors were made to hear the silent ninjas who raided castles in the middle of the night. No matter how light the intruder is , the nightingale floor makes the chirping sound (e.g. the floors at the Nijo Castle).
-For silent walking the ninja trained by walking on a large piece of rice paper and they were not sent on a mission if they could not walk without any sound.
-One of the less known weapons of ninja is the egg-shells. After making a hole underneath, they filled them with either gunpowder and ash or irritating chemicals.The ninja threw the chemical filled at their targets to either distract attention or gain time for escape.

Hiroo Onoda, the Last Ninja (1922 ~ 2014)

Onoda was trained in the Nagano Spy school which is considered as a modern day ninja school in Japan. He was dispatched to Lubang Island in the Philippines on December 26, 1944. The Island was taken by the US forces in August, 1945 and they announced the end of the war by leaving thousands of leaflets in the mountains for commandos to turn themselves in.
Onoda and his three friends thought the leaflets were a trick and did not surrender. Over the years, Onoda’s friends died and he managed to survive on the hills of the remote Pilipino Island. He was found by a Japanese traveler who told him the war was over. He did not believe him and refused to surrender. Finally the Japanese government found the man who was the commanding officer of Onoda. The officer, who back then was a bookseller in Tokyo, ordered him to surrender. Onoda returned his weapons including a samurai sword and a dagger that he should have used if he was to be captured. Being trained as an intelligence officer at a spy school and surviving 29 years in the wild perhaps gives him the title of the last ninja.


The Ninja Training Techniques

Nyudaki no-jutsu – Locating the weakest staff
Yogi Gakure – Using an object for distraction
Joei-on jutsu – The way of concealing the sounds
Bajutsu – Horsemanship
Sui-ren – Water skills
Bo-ryaku – Strategy. The ninja were trained to think strategically. Not only defeating one enemy but also how to overcome a group and sometimes how to defeat the enemy without fighting (acting politically etc.).
Choho – Espionage. The ninja studied the techniques of how to gain trust and how not to look or act suspicious.
Inton-jutsu – Escape techniques
Ten-mon – Meteorology
Chi-mon – Geography
Seizon-jutsu – Survival skills. Surving in the wild, hunting and gathering skills, tracking skills.
Spiritual training – Seishin teki kyoyo
Know yourself, your needs and desires
Know the nature, environment and the universe
Understand the importance of destiny
Be in harmony with the nature and society (harmony)
Understand others and have empathy (heart)
See and observe your environment (eye)
Love yourself and others (love)
Tai Jutsu – Combat Training. Fighting with no weapons
Daken-taijutsu – Punching, kicking, blocking
Jutai-jatsu – Close fighting, grappling, submission holds and escape holds
Taihen-jutsu – Silent movement, leaping, falling, rolling and tumbling
Kenjutsu – Swordmanship
Bojutsu– Staff fighting (Using Bo (Long stick))
Shurikenjutsu– Throwing blades- Throwing shuriken stars
Yarijutsu – Spear fighting. The ninja trained with the spears commonly used by the samurai as follow:
Te-yari – A short spear
Naga-yari – A long spear
Tetsu-yari – A metal spear
Sanbon-yari – A three bladed spear
Kama-yari – A spear with an additional half moon blade
Naginatajutsu (Spear with a katana ending/Polearm)
Kusarigamajutsu – Chain and sickle weapon
Kayakujutsu – Fire and explosives
Hensojutsu – Disguise Techniques . The ninja were trained to be able to impersonated at least 7 different characters as a monk, a samurai, a merchant, a craftsman, a farmer, a performer and an ordinary peasant. The ninja used to carry at least 2 costumes with them and the colors of their outfit was different inside and outside (so that they can reverse their clothes after the mission).
Shinobi-iri – Sneaking in and stealth techniques
Nyukyo no-jutsu – The correct timing
Monomi no-jutsu – Locating the weakest point

Books and Quotations about Martial Arts part 3

The Art of Peace begins with you. Work on yourself and your appointed task in the Art of Peace. Everyone has a spirit that can be refined, a body that can be trained in some manner, a suitable path to follow. You are here for no other purpose than to realize your inner divinity and manifest your inner enlightenment. Foster peace in your own life and then apply the Art to all that you encounter.
One does not need buildings, money, power, or status to practice the Art of Peace. Heaven is right where you are standing, and that is the place to train.
In the art of peace, a single cut of the sword summons up the wondrous powers of the universe. That one sword links the past, present, and future; it absorbs the universe. Time and space disappear. All of creation, from the distant past to the present moment, lives in the sword. All human existence flourishes right here in the sword you hold in your hands. You are now prepared for anything that may arise.
Never fear another challenger, no matter how large; Never despise another challenger, no matter how small.
Large does not always defeat little. Little can become large by constant building; large can become little by falling apart.
The penetrating brilliance of swords
Wielded by followers of the Way
Strikes at the evil enemy
Lurking deep within
Their own souls and bodies.
Do not fail
to learn from
The pure voice of an
Ever-flowing mountain stream
Splashing over the rocks.
One does not need buildings, money, power, or status to practice the Art of Peace. Heaven is right where you are standing, and that is the place to train.
The purpose of training is to tighten up the slack, toughen the body, and polish the spirit.
To injure an opponent is to injure yourself. To control aggression without inflicting injury is the Art of Peace.
When you bow deeply to the universe, it bows back; when you call out the name of God, it echoes inside you.

― Morihei Ueshiba, The Art of Peace

In an argument, you may silence your opponent by pressing an advantage of strength or of wealth, or of education. But you do not really convince him. Though he is no longer saying anything, in his heart he still keeps to his opinion, the only way to make him change that opinion is to speak quietly and reasonably. When he understands that you are not trying to defeat him, but only to find the truth, he will listen to you and perhaps accept what you tell him.
Judo should be free as art and science from any external influences, political, national, racial, and financial or any other organized interest. And all things connected with it should be directed to its ultimate object, the benefit of Humanity.
Before and after practicing Judo or engaging in a match, opponents bow to each other. Bowing is an expression of gratitude and respect. In effect, you are thanking your opponent for giving you the opportunity to improve your technique.
Walk a single path, becoming neither cocky with victory nor broken with defeat, without forgetting caution when all is quiet or becoming frightened when danger threatens.
Nothing under the sun is greater than education. By educating one person and sending him into the society of his generation, we make a contribution extending a hundred generations to come.
Judo is a study of techniques with which you may kill if you wish to kill, injure if you wish to injure, subdue if you wish to subdue, and, when attacked, defend yourself
Carefully observe oneself and one’s situation, carefully observe others, and carefully observe one’s environment. Consider fully, act decisively.
The pine fought the storm and broke. The willow yielded to the wind and snow and did not break. Practice Jiu-Jitsu in just this way.
Face your fear, empty yourself, trust your own voice, let go of control, have faith in outcomes, connect with a larger purpose, derive meaning from the struggle.
To ask may be but a moment’s shame, not to ask and remain ignorant is a lifelong shame.
The purpose of the study of judo is to perfect yourself and to contribute to society.
It is not important to be better than someone else, but to be better than yesterday.

― Kano Jigoro

Humans have yet to dwell upon the consequences of their
actions. People have yet to admit the bad that they do to
nature, for example. Actually, most people spend their time
finding fault in the action of others, rather than their own.
Looking for the meaning of life, one man can discover the order of the universe. To discover the truth, to achieve. a higher spiritual state, that is the true meaning of ninja.
Don’t think that any one technique is the end. there is no end.
There is no perfect technique. Just when you think you’ve got
them, you’re dead because you didn’t.
Breathe life into the weapon, don’t take life away from it.
Keep walking, because walking is life.
If you do something and it saves your life, it was good
taijutsu. In a real fight, you aren’t worried about what’s pretty.
You’ve got to learn to utilize the space (between you and
your opponent). Distancing is very important.
Forget your sadness, anger, grudges and hatred. Let them pass like smoke caught in a breeze. Do not indulge yourself in such feelings.
When weak or injured always continue training as you should always be able to adapt in any condition.

― Masaaki Hatsumi

Books and Quotations about Martial Arts part 2

The principle of avoiding conflict and never opposing an aggressor’s strength head-on is the essence of aikido. We apply the same principle to problems that arise in life. The skilled aikidoist is as elusive as the truth of Zen; he makes himself into a koan—a puzzle which slips away the more one tries to solve it. He is like water in that he falls through the fingers of those who try to clutch him. Water does not hesitate before it yields, for the moment the fingers begin to close it moves away, not of its own strength, but by using the pressure applied to it. It is for this reason, perhaps, that one of the symbols for aikido is water.
The mind is like a fertile garden,” Bruce said. “It will grow anything you wish to plant—beautiful flowers or weeds. And so it is with successful, healthy thoughts or with negative ones that will, like weeds, strangle and crowd the others. Do not allow negative thoughts to enter your mind for they are the weeds that strangle confidence.
We are like blades of grass or trees of the forest, creations of the universe, of the spirit of the universe, and the spirit of the universe has neither life nor death. Vanity is the only obstacle to life.
For the uncontrolled there is no wisdom, nor for the uncontrolled is there the power of concentration; and for him without concentration there is no peace. And for the unpeaceful, how can there be happiness?
For example, if you are fearful your mind will freeze, motion will be stopped and you will be defeated. If your mind is fixed on victory or defeating your opponent, you will be unable to function automatically.
Those who are patient in the trivial things in life and control themselves will one day have the same mastery in great and important things.
Only after several years of training did I come to realize that the deepest purpose of the martial arts is to serve as a vehicle for personal spiritual development.
To win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the highest skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the highest skill.
Always remember: in life as well as on the mat an unfocused or ‘loose’ mind wastes energy.
Only through practice and more practice, until you can do something without conscious effort.
When one eye is fixed upon your destination, there is only one eye left with which to find the Way.
When an untoward event occurs in your life, react to it without haste or passion.
When you lose your temper, you lose yourself—on the mat as well as in life.
What stands in the way of effortless effort is caring, or a conscious attempt to do well.
A man who has attained mastery of an art reveals it in his every action.
I can defeat you physically with or without a reason. But I can only defeat your mind with a reason.

― Joe Hyams, Zen in the Martial Arts

The primary thing when you take a sword in your hands is your intention to cut the enemy, whatever the means. Whenever you parry, hit, spring, strike or touch the enemy’s cutting sword, you must cut the enemy in the same movement. It is essential to attain this. If you think only of hitting, springing, striking or touching the enemy, you will not be able actually to cut him.
Do not sleep under a roof. Carry no money or food. Go alone to places frightening to the common brand of men. Become a criminal of purpose. Be put in jail, and extricate yourself by your own wisdom.
You should not have any special fondness for a particular weapon, or anything else, for that matter. Too much is the same as not enough. Without imitating anyone else, you should have as much weaponry as suits you.
There is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, stronger, richer, quicker, or smarter. Everything is within. Everything exists. Seek nothing outside of yourself.
Perception is strong and sight weak. In strategy it is important to see distant things as if they were close and to take a distanced view of close things.
The important thing in strategy is to suppress the enemy’s useful actions but allow his useless actions
The only reason a warrior is alive is to fight, and the only reason a warrior fights is to win.
Today is victory over yourself of yesterday; tomorrow is your victory over lesser men.
You must understand that there is more than one path to the top of the mountain.

― Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings

Mistakes are our teachers,’ explained Sensei Yamada, bowing before the Buddha. ‘As long as you recognize them for what they are, they can help you learn about life. Each mistake teaches you something new about yourself. There is no failure, remember, except in no longer trying. It is the courage to continue that counts.
Anyone can give up; it is the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone would expect you to fall apart, now that is true strength.
Each mistake teaches you something new about yourself. There is no failure, remember, except in no longer trying. It is the courage to continue that counts.
Impatience is a hindrance. As with all things if you attempt to take shortcuts, the final destination will rarely be as good and may even be attainable.
A samurai must remain calm at all times even in the face of danger.
The impossible becomes possible if only your mind believes it.
Wherever it is you may be, it is your friends who make your world.
There is no failure except in no longer trying.

― Chris Bradford, The Way of the Sword

Books and Quotations about Martial Arts part 1

The Yamato spirit is not a tame, tender plant, but a wild–in the sense of natural–growth; it is indigenous to the soil; its accidental qualities it may share with the flowers of other lands, but in its essence it remains the original, spontaneous outgrowth of our clime. But its nativity is not its sole claim to our affection. The refinement and grace of its beauty appeal to our æsthetic sense as no other flower can. We cannot share the admiration of the Europeans for their roses, which lack the simplicity of our flower. Then, too, the thorns that are hidden beneath the sweetness of the rose, the tenacity with which she clings to life, as though loth or afraid to die rather than drop untimely, preferring to rot on her stem; her showy colours and heavy odours–all these are traits so unlike our flower, which carries no dagger or poison under its beauty, which is ever ready to depart life at the call of nature, whose colours are never gorgeous, and whose light fragrance never palls. Beauty of colour and of form is limited in its showing; it is a fixed quality of existence, whereas fragrance is volatile, ethereal as the breathing of life. So in all religious ceremonies frankincense and myrrh play a prominent part. There is something spirituelle in redolence. When the delicious perfume of the sakura quickens the morning air, as the sun in its course rises to illumine first the isles of the Far East, few sensations are more serenely exhilarating than to inhale, as it were, the very breath of beauteous day.
A truly brave man is ever serene; he is never taken by surprise; nothing ruffles the equanimity of his spirit. In the heat of battle he remains cool; in the midst of catastrophes he keeps level his mind. Earthquakes do not shake him, he laughs at storms. We admire him as truly great, who, in the menacing presence of danger or death, retains his self-possession; who, for instance, can compose a poem under impending peril or hum a strain in the face of death. Such indulgence betraying no tremor in the writing or in the voice, is taken as an infallible index of a large nature—of what we call a capacious mind (Yoyū), which, far from being pressed or crowded, has always room for something more.
Did not Socrates, all the while he unflinchingly refused to concede one iota of loyalty to his daemon, obey with equal fidelity and equanimity the command of his earthly master, the State? His conscience he followed, alive; his country he served, dying. Alack the day when a state grows so powerful as to demand of its citizens the dictates of their consciences!
Ritterlichkeit ist eine Blume, die auf dem Boden Japans nicht weniger heimisch ist als ihr Symbol, die Kirschblüte. Sie ist kein vertrocknetes Blatt einer uralten Tugend, die im Herbarium unserer Geschichte verwahrt wird, sondern ein lebendiges Etwas von Schönheit und Macht, das unter uns weilt.
There are, if I may so say, three powerful spirits, which have from time to time, moved on the face of the waters, and given a predominant impulse to the moral sentiments and energies of mankind. These are the spirits of liberty, of religion, and of honor
Bushido as an independent code of ethics may vanish, but its power will not perish from the earth; its schools of martial prowess or civic honor may be demolished, but its light and its glory will long survive their ruins. Like its symbolic flower, after it is blown to the four winds, it will still bless mankind with the perfume with which it will enrich life.
Read Hearn, the most eloquent and truthful interpreter of the Japanese mind, and you see the working of that mind to be an example of the working of Bushido.
Tranquillity is courage in repose. It is a statical manifestation of valor, as daring deeds are a dynamical. A truly brave man is ever serene; he is never taken by surprise; nothing ruffles the equanimity of his spirit.
It is a brave act of valor to contemn death, but where life is more terrible than death, it is then the truest valor to dare to live
Filial Piety, which is considered one of the two wheels of the chariot of Japanese ethics—Loyalty being the other.

― Inazo Nitobe, Bushido, the Soul of Japan

Meditation on inevitable death should be performed daily. Every day when one’s body and mind are at peace, one should meditate upon being ripped apart by arrows, rifles, spears and swords, being carried away by surging waves, being thrown into the midst of a great fire, being struck by lightning, being shaken to death by a great earthquake, falling from thousand-foot cliffs, dying of disease or committing seppuku at the death of one’s master. And every day without fail one should consider himself as dead.
It is said that what is called “the spirit of an age” is something to which one cannot return. That this spirit gradually dissipates is due to the world’s coming to an end. For this reason, although one would like to change today’s world back to the spirit of one hundred years or more ago, it cannot be done. Thus it is important to make the best out of every generation.
It is spiritless to think that you cannot attain to that which you have seen and heard the masters attain. The masters are men. You are also a man. If you think that you will be inferior in doing something, you will be on that road very soon.
Even if it seems certain that you will lose, retaliate. Neither wisdom nor technique has a place in this. A real man does not think of victory or defeat. He plunges recklessly towards an irrational death. By doing this, you will awaken from your dreams.
Whether people be of high or low birth, rich or poor, old or young, enlightened or confused, they are all alike in that they will one day die.
Be true to the thought of the moment and avoid distraction. Other than continuing to exert yourself, enter into nothing else, but go to the extent of living single thought by single thought.
There is surely nothing other than the single purpose of the present moment. A man’s whole life is a succession of moment after moment. There will be nothing else to do, and nothing else to pursue. Live being true to the single purpose of the moment.

― Tsunetomo Yamamoto, Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai

Mistakes are our teachers,’ explained Sensei Yamada, bowing before the Buddha. ‘As long as you recognize them for what they are, they can help you learn about life. Each mistake teaches you something new about yourself. There is no failure, remember, except in no longer trying. It is the courage to continue that counts.
Anyone can give up; it is the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone would expect you to fall apart, now that is true strength.
Each mistake teaches you something new about yourself. There is no failure, remember, except in no longer trying. It is the courage to continue that counts.
Impatience is a hindrance. As with all things if you attempt to take shortcuts, the final destination will rarely be as good and may even be attainable.
Wherever it is you may be, it is your friends who make your world.
A samurai must remain calm at all times even in the face of danger.
The impossible becomes possible if only your mind believes it.

― Chris Bradford, The Way of the Sword

Japanese Castles in history

The earliest known castles date from Yayoi Period (300 BC-300 AD). During the Sengoku Period ( The Warring States Period), as many as 25,000 castles were built. There are five national treasure castles that remain largely intact: Matsumoto Castle, Inuyama Castle, Hikone Castle, Himeji Castle, Matsue Castle. Many of Japanese castles were dismantled by the Meiji Government, after the ordinance which proclaimed that each fiefdom could have only one castle. Many castles were destroyed by lightnings, earthquakes, fires or at the end of the feudal age in 1868 because as the new government considered them anachronistic.
Unlike European castles, which are known for their opulence, Japanese castles were built mainly for defensive purposes, which is why their number peaked in the Sengoku (Warring States Period) in the 16th century. This is why Japanese castles are located mainly on hilltops, resulting in a unique style known as yamashiro (mountain castles). Different from European castles most castles tend to be somewhat similar white walls, pagoda style roofs, surrounded by moats having shachihoko on the roofs (a gold-color imaginary creature that has a body of a fish and head of a tiger). In the past only daimyos and noble samurais (bushi) were allowed to live in the castles. Ronins were not allowed to live in the castles.
When the Sengoku Period was over, the style changed, and Japan’s castles started being built in the plains, where they served as military and administrative headquarters. Because the defense was their main purpose, they were made up of three defensive rings: honmaru (main circle), ninomaru (second circle) and sannomaru (third circle). The main construction material for these castles was wood, but modern-day reconstructions are mainly in stone.
Japanese castles featured many tricks and traps. One of them was tonashi (no door), a smaller gate behind the main gate, leading into a small, closed and heavily defended area. Some castles also had channels which were used to drop stones and boiling water down on enemies, as well as openings for guns and arrows. Almost all Japanese castles had a moat not only to make it difficult to enter the castle but also make it impossible to dig tunnels to penetrate inside to castle.

Fushimi Castle

The building of the Fushimi Castle in Kyoto is a replica which was built as an amusement park in 1964. In 2003 the amusement park shut down and the castle is currently closed for visitors. Unlike many other Japanese castles, Fushimi was not built only for defensive purposes, but also as a retirement home for Hideyoshi. The castle was originally built for Toyotomi Hideyoshi during the 16th century and this is where Hideyoshi died in 1598. The castle is most famous for the defense of Mototada against the forces of Western army while they are advancing to the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. During this defense it is reported that hundreds of Motoda’s men committed seppuku after he was killed. Ieyasu ordered the blood-stained castle floors to be distributed to 7 temples in the region. Two of those temples (Genko An and Yogen In) can be visited even today. Fushimi was destroyed during this eleven-day-siege in 1600. What remains of the castle today, was built in 1964 as “Castle Entertainment Park.”

Nijo Castle

Nijo Castle construction started in 1603 after Tokugawa Ieyasu won the battle of Sekigahara and needed a resting place when he visited the emperor who lived in Kyoto. Nijo castle is famous as a place where the Edo period started (1603) and ended as the last shogun Yoshinobu Tokugawa declared in the main hall of this castle that he was giving up the power to the young emperor Meiji (1867). The castle is renowned by its nightingale floors, the floors that squeak and make the chirping noise whenever someone steps on them. These floors were made to hear the ninjas who may raid the castle in the middle of the night when people are sleeping. The castle is quite different from other castles in Japan (it does not have a big keep or many floors with large pagoda-style roofs as it was built in the peaceful period.) The castle also has original paintings on the screens that are more than 300 years old.

Himeji Castle

The most visited Japanese castle in the world. Also known as White Heron Castle and located on a hilltop in the city of Himeji, near Kobe, Himeji Castle was completed in the 17th century. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful castles in Japan and is a popular cherry blossom spot. It is a UNESCO world heritage site, and one of Japan’s twelve original castles, having never been damaged by war or natural disasters. Himeji is a fine example of Japan’s castle architecture, as it is made up of 83 buildings, multiple gates, wing buildings and winding paths. It has tricky swirling paths that go to the keep which makes it easy to stop the enemy. Himeji Castle appeared in James Bond’s movie “You only live twice,” two of Akiro Kurosawa’s movies and multiple video games.

Osaka Castle

It was built in 1597 1 year before the legendary Sengoku warrior died. It was sieged by Ieyasu in the winter of 1614 but Yukimura Canada successfully defended the castle with 6000 men vs. the 30,000 strong Takugawa army. During the summer of 1615 this tie Osaka castle fell and burned completely. It was rebuilt but demolished in 1868 again. Later during WWII it was completely bombed by the allied forces as the Japanese army used the castle to train the army and hide the arsenal. On the wall stones the traces of the bombing can still be seen. After the war, Osakans collected millions of dollars and eventually built the current replica. There is an elevator which surprise many foreign visitors. It is an eight-storey building, made up of numerous citadels, gates, stone walls and moats. Its famous site is a museum devoted to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the shogun who unified Japan.

Matsumoto Castle

One of the rare Japanese castles not located on a hilltop, Matsumoto Castle is one of the most beautiful among Japan’s 12 original castles. It is known for its decorative turrets, a secondary donjon (castle keep) adjoined to its main keep and a red-lacquer bridge. Matsumoto Castle is also distinguished by its wooden interior and steep wooden stairs. Motsumoto castle looks like 5 stories from the outside but this is just to trick the enemy, there is a hidden floor which makes it a 6-floor building.

Kumamoto Castle

Kumamoto Castle was constructed in the 17th century, but what can be seen today are mainly modern-day reconstructions, albeit very authentic and true to original appearance. Unfortunately, the castle suffered serious damage in the earthquakes of 2016, with its walls crumbling and many of its structures falling down. It is made up of two towers, and its main attraction is Honmaru Goten Palace in which the daimyo (feudal lords) used to receive their guests. Kumamoto is also known for its formidable defensive system with stone walls and moats.

Aizu Wakamatsu Castle

This is the last castle that witnessed the modern-day fight of samurai. Also known as Tsuruga Castle, it was built in the 14th century, and destroyed during the 19th century Boshin War (1868), a rebellion against the Meiji government, because it was one of the few remaining strongholds of samurai who fought for the Tokugawa shogunate. The castle’s concrete reconstruction was built in the 1960s. It is distinguished among other Japanese castles by the red color of its roof tiles. It is surrounded by Tsuruga Castle Park with lawns and cherry trees and Rinkaku Teahouse which was used for the tea ceremony.

Hikone Castle

This is one of the smallest castles in Japan. Located at the shores of lake Biwa, Hikone Castle was completed in the 17th century and is one of Japan’s original castles, remaining largely intact. It is famous for its three- storied castle keep, which is not large, but combines multiple architectural styles. The castle is one of Japan’s national treasures. Its famous site is Genkyuen Garden, with a pond and a circular walking trail. The castle is very popular during the sakura season.

Nagoya Castle

Nagoya Castle was built during the Edo period by Tokugawa family and it served as one of their three seats. Many of the castle’s buildings were destroyed during the Second World War, so it was reconstructed in 1959. Outside the castle, there is an over 600 years old Torreya Nut Tree, which is the only government-designated natural monument in Nagoya. Nagoya Castle is also famous for its shachihoko, an animal-statue with the head of a tiger and the body of a carp, located on the top of its roof.

Harakiri and Suppuku

What is Harakiri (Seppuku)?
It can be considered as honorable death or ritualistic way of ending the life of a samurai. Only samurai can perform harakiri, commoners cannot (They can but no-one would care). The custom dates back to the 12th century as a means for the upper and samurai classes exclusively to atone for crimes, regain lost honour, or avoid disgraceful capture. When executed correctly it was considered to be the noblest way for a samurai to die, and from eyewitness accounts of such ritualistic suicide, probably the most painful.

How is it done?
Seppuku in its most common and recognizable form became a highly ritualized spectacle of noble and artistic suicide in the 1700s. The condemned man wore a ceremonial white death kimono and was permitted a final meal. The execution blade, which could range in size from a long sword to a ceremonial knife, was then served in the last plate, and he would be expected to write a death poem before stabbing himself in the abdomen and cutting first from left to the right and then upwards. Upon completing the cut, his second (kaishakunin) would step forward to issue the killing blow to the condemned man’s exposed neck. However if honour was to be preserved in the act, it was expected that this cut would not severe the neck completely, but allow just enough flesh attached for the head to fall naturally forward into the executed man’s arms. In this way, not only the viewers clothes are not stained with the blood but also the head drops among the two hands of the samurai as if he is holding his head. Women who performed seppuku–often the wives of samurai wishing to avoid capture–would tie their legs together before cutting to preserve a modest posture in death. Variations of the ritual exist without seconds, in which case the condemned man would be expected to strike the final blow to his own throat or heart.

Are Seppuku and Harakiri the same?
Seppuku and harakiri are in essence the same thing. Both refer to the same form of self-execution via disembowelment, and both ostensibly mean “[to] cut the stomach.” The difference between the two words is entirely etymological. Seppuku derives from an on-yomi or Chinese reading of the kanji characters 切腹, while harakiri is a kun-yomi, or native Japanese reading of the same characters in reverse. Due to the historico-political association of Chinese characters with early Japanese aristocratic and governmental literature, the term “seppuku” is almost always used in a written context, while “harakiri” is its verbal equivalent.
There are 2 kinds of Harakiri
Seppuku could be either voluntary or obligatory.
Voluntary seppuku was often committed to restore honour for a misdeed or a failure, or else to avoid capture by an invading army. Obligatory seppuku could be requested by the victor of a conflict as a term of surrender and subsequent peace. In such cases, the leader(s) of the losing side were compelled to commit seppuku, thus removing all further political and military opposition to the victor.
Obligatory seppuku was also used as a means of capital punishment for disgraced samurai who had committed acts of treason or violent crimes. Those who resisted such punishment were restrained while it was acted upon them by another. In the case of the “47 samurai” the seppuku was obligatory handed by the shogunate. During the obligatory seppuku, the blade without the “handle” wrapped with a fabric is given to the samurai to make sure he does not fight back.

The last harakiri in Japan
Yukio Mishima is one of the most interesting characters who ever lived in Japan. He was a famous author who worked as an actor and model. After studying martial arts and kendo, he founded his own private militia (tatenokai) consisting of martial arts students with the focus on the far right ideology and the importance of the emperor of Japan. In 1970 he and his four men from tatenokai trespassed into a Japan Self defense Forces outpost in Tokyo. Mishima encouraged the troops at the base to rise up to reinstate to imperial constitution. This was an obvious attempt for a coup in Japan. But the soldiers did not take him seriously and he ended his life by seppuku on Nov. 25, 1970. Mishima’s seppuku is especially noteworthy because of the failure of his second to correctly deliver the killing blow, resulting in an agonizing series of hacks at Mishima’s neck until his head was finally fully removed.

Why did they cut the belly?
In ancient Asia many believed that the spirit rested inside the belly, slitting the belly let the spirit go free. Also one has to be very brave and mentally strong to be able to perform such kind of act which can only be carried by a true samurai. Although it is reported that in some occasions the samurai lost themselves and collapsed before the ritual and were forcefully beheaded.
Why did the samurai commit seppuku?
Seppuku began on the battlefield as a means for routed samurai to avoid capture, torture, and dishonour. As it evolved, it became a way for disgraced samurai to regain honour by their own hands, as opposed to being executed by another. Seppuku was thus an act that required some form of permission by a figure of authority. Although in the Sengoku period some samurais committed seppuku after their lord died, this practice was banned during the Edo period.

Who did harakiri?
The earliest record of seppuku was that committed by Minamoto no Yorimasa in 1180. Without any accompanying ritual or codified way of performing the act, early seppuku was likely a painful and drawn out process. Some historically notable acts of seppuku include that of Oda Nobunaga, who engaged in ritual suicide to avoid capture when surrounded at Honno-ji temple in 1582; philosopher and tea master Sen-no-Rikyu who was ordered to commit seppuku in 1591 by his lord Toyotomi Hideyoshi over differences of political opinion; Torii Mototada who in 1600 bravely and held his garrison of 300 samurai at Fushimi Castle against the overwhelming siege by the forces of Toyotomi Hideyori; Saigo Takamori who committed seppuku in 1877 after he got wounded during the Satsuma rebellion and and Yukio Mishima who committed seppuku in 1970 after a failed coup d’état.

Famous Samurais of Japan

Oda Nobunaga (1534~1582) , The Uniter of Japan I

After the Onin war (1467 ~1477) the shogun system collapsed and all the daimyos declared their independence. Japan had been in total chaos and no daimyo could establish any significant superiority over others.
The hopeless situation would one day be ended by the Demon King Nobunaga who was born in Nagoya Castle in 1534.
He was brave but unpredictable and sometimes acting bizarre. He was so disrespectful during his father’s funeral so that one of his retainers committed seppuku to protest him.
To take over the leadership the Oda clan, he first killed his uncle and younger brother.
Then he attacked an army of 25,000 men from the Imagawa clan with only 3000 men. He first intimidated them by using dummy soldiers in the dark and then ambushed them in a narrow gorge.
In 1568 The Ashikaga Shogun invited Nobunaga to Kyoto in order to protect him from other daimyos. Nabunaga helped him and announced him as the new shogun but it was an act. Nobunaga wanted to be the shogun himself so he restricted the powers of the Ashikaga shogun. Historians call this moment the end of the Muromachi (Ashikaga) period and the beginning of the period of Azuchi-Momoyama.
Even though he won many battles, his brother was killed by the warrior monks. Nobunaga also lost against the Ikko Ikki warrior monks a few times in his life. But in 1571 he burned one of the biggest temples in Japan slaughtered thousands of monks in Mount Hiei, north of Kyoto city. He repeated the same thing in 1574, he burned the Nagashima settlements of Ikko Ikki, slaughtering about 20,000 people.
In 1575, Oda Nobunaga’s forces crushed the Takeda clan’s army (famous for its cavalry) by using arquebuses Nobunaga acquired from Westerners. About 10,000 Takeda forces were killed near the Nagashino Castle. Although the leader of the Takeda clan survived, Nobunaga got all of their territories in 1582.
Nobunaga is known as the person who introduced and promoted Christianity in Japan. Some historians also claim that he converted to Christianity.
In 1578 , Oda Nobunaga built the Azuchi Castle, the biggest and perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing castle back then. It was on top of a hill overseeing the Eastern and Western Japan.
The only little problem in Central Japan was the ninja clans in the Iga region. They defeated Nobunaga’s son in 1579 and they were completely independent. 2 years later, Nobunaga surrounded the region with 44 thousand-strong army and slaughtered thousands of ninja’s in the region.
Nobunaga also was sometimes disrespectful to men around him. He called Toyotomi Hideyoshi Saru (Monkey) and Akechi Mitsuhide Hage (baldy). He also killed some high ranking war prisoners, whose relatives in turn killed Akechi’s mother.
on June 21, 1582, while resting at the Honnoji Temple with a few dozen servants, Nobunaga realized that thousands of samurai troops waiting outside to kill him. The temple was set on fire and Nobunaga and his close servants committed seppuku. These samurai troops were led by no-one else but Akechi Mitsuhide, one of Nobunaga’s closest generals.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537~1598) The Uniter of Japan II

Hideyoshi’s story was rags to the riches. He was a son of a peasant and he was just a sandal bearer for Oda Nobunaga.
He proved himself to be a smart and good warrior and he became one of Nobunaga’s generals. He avenged his master just 11 days after his death and killed Akechi Mitsuhide.
The chiefs of Oda clan did not want Hideyoshi to be the next leader since he was not from the Oda family. Hideyoshi appointed the infant son of Nobunaga as the new leader on purpose and then destroyed the forces of Katsuie, the chief of the Oda clan. Later he declared himself the head of the Oda clan and started ruling the largest territory in Japan.
In 1583, Hideyoshi built the largest castle in Japan back then: the Osaka castle. The daimyos from each region competed carrying large stones to show there loyalty to Hideyoshi.
In the following years Hideyoshi captured the lands of Shikoku island and Kyushu Island. In 1590, he captured the Odawara castle in Tokyo. Nobunaga’s dream was fulfilled, Japan was finally unified for the first time in 100 years achieved by a son of a peasant. Hideyoshi was never appointed as “shogun” by the emperor because he did not belong to the Minamoto clan.
Hideyoshi prohibited peasants from carrying swords, he confiscated all their swords and melted them into a Buddha statue. He killed 26 Christian missionaries and Japanese converts In Nagasaki to discourage people from converting.
Hideyoshi also asked Sen no Rikyu, the founder of tea ceremony and one of Hideyoshi’s closest friends, to commit seppuku, for the reason we still don’t know today.
He invaded Korea twice (1592, 1597), both incursions were somewhat successful but the Japanese forces never made it into Mainland China and eventually withdrew. The Japanese army attacked China in 1931 by following the same route used by Hideyoshi’s forces.
He could not have a child to take over after him so he declared that his nephew was the heir. But He eventually had a son 5 years before his death. He then killed his nephew and all of his family members including women and kids.
Before he died, he set up the elders council to rule Japan temporarily until his 5 year old son grows up. The elderly council, consisting of 5 generals including Ieyasu, promised to protect his son and obey his rule in the future.

Musashi Miyamoto (1584~1645)

Musashi did not have a master daimyo so he was a ronin. He had more than 60 sword duels, the highest number recorded. He is said to have killed 17 people in his battles. His first battle was when he was 13. He was very strong and a skilled carpenter, architect and an artist. He was about 180 cm while an avg. samurai was 150 cm tall. He is famous for his technique of using two swords in his two hands as usually katana is held with both hands. He wrote a book to train the samurais and the swordsmen. The book is recommended to everyone including martial arts practitioners and business leaders. Miyamoto emphasized that the techniques are less important than the overall goal. The same fighting principles apply to not only one-on-one conflicts but also army battles. The 5 rings represent the five episodes Musashi wrote:
“Do nothing that is of no use” ; “If you wish to control others you must first control yourself”; “from one thing, know ten thousand things”; “It is difficult to understand the universe if you only study one planet” ; “In battle, if you you make your opponent flinch, you have already won.”; “Do not regret what you have done”; “If you do not control the enemy, the enemy will control you” ; “Respect Buddha and the gods without counting on their help”; “The important thing in strategy is not to suppress the enemy’s useful actions but allow his useless actions”; “Perception is strong and sight weak. In strategy it is important to see distant things as if they were close and to take a distanced view of close things.”; “Accept everything just the way it is.”; “Never let yourself be saddened by a separation.”

Sanada Yukimura (1567- 1615)

Sanada Yukimura was the most famous samurai of the Sanada clan, being called “A Hero who may appear once in a hundred years“ and “Number one warrior in Japan,“ who is famous for his participation in the Siege of Osaka Castle in 1614 (Winter campaign) and 1615 (Summer Campaign). In the events preceding the Battle of Sekigahara, Yukimura and his father decided to side with Ishida Mitsunari, against Tokugawa Ieyasu, parting ways with Yukimura’s brother Nobuyuki. He participated in the Winter and Summer sieges of Osaka Castle, successfully defending the Castle with only 6000 men against Tokugawa shogunate attacked by 30,000 troops. He was killed near the Yasui Shrine right by the Tennoji temple in Osaka during the Summer siege of Osaka castle. His armor had a symbolic meaning: deer horns (deers are messengers of Gods), red color (red is the purifying color that keep evil spirits away, 6 coins (after death our spirits should pay 6 coins to the devil waiting by the river, the 6 coins on the helmet to remind the readiness for death).

Yoshitsune Minamoto (1159-1189)

Yoshitsune Minamoto faced hardship already as a 1-year-old boy, when his father and two older brothers were murdered in the Heiji Rebellion, while he and his mother managed to flee. He was raised by the monks in Kurama Temple, but did not want to become a priest himself. His famous companion was Benkei (1155-1189) who was sohei ( warrior monk). One night, Benkei was wandering around Kyoto, in his quest to take 1000 swords from samurai warriors. Having managed to take 999 swords, he faced up to the man much smaller than himself and lost- that man was Yoshitsune Minamoto. Out of respect, he became Yoshitsune’s retainer and fought alongside him in his battles against the Taira clan, becoming known in Japanese folklore for his honor, bravery and loyalty. When Yoshitsune was betrayed by his brother Yoritomo and had to commit seppuku (ritual suicide) in the castle of Koromogawa, Benkei died defending him, pierced by a barrage of arrows on the bridge leading towards the castle.

Takeda Shingen (1521- 1573)

Takeda Shingen, Haronubu, was one of the most famous feudal lords of Japan, during a difficult Sengoku (warring states) period. He was known for his rivalry with another famed warrior Uesugi Kenshin. Born into a clan of military governors, he forced his father to step down as a head of the clan and took over. He started expanding into neighboring areas, acquiring a lot of land for his family. In 1551, he became a Buddhist priest and took the name Shingen. Around that time, he started his rivalry with Uesugi Kenshin, with whom he fought five times in the Battles of Kawanakajima. During the only single combat between the two, Kenshin attacked him with a sword, while Shingen fought back with an iron war fan. He also defeated Tokugawa Ieyasu in the Battle of Hamamatsu. There are many accounts of his death, but the most popular is offered in Kurosawa’s movie “Kagemusha“, according to which he died of a single sniper shot wound.

Yoritomo Minamoto (1147-1199)

Yoritomo Minamoto is one of the most important historical figures in Japan, being the first shogun of the Kamakura shogunate, the first shogunate in Japan’s history. As a member of the Minamoto clan, he was destined for a clash with the rival Taira clan. His father and numerous family members were killed by the Taira clan during the Heiji rebellion, and young Yoritomo spent his youth in a Buddhist temple, preparing his revenge. His opportunity came when Prince Mochihito urged him to take up arms and rebel against the Taira. After a series of battles in the Genpei War, he managed to defeat the Taira and set up his base in Kamakura, where he was appointed as shogun and allowed to establish the offices of jito (stewards) and shugo (military governors). The conflict between the Taira and the Minamoto clan is chronicled in “Tale of the Heike“.

Date Masamune (1567- 1636)

Date Masamune was a regional ruler who founded Sendai, the capital of Miyagi Prefecture. He was known as “One-eyed Dragon of Oshu“, having lost his right eye to smallpox he had as a child. In battles, he wore his well-known crescent-moon helmet, which only added to his reputation as a frightening warrior. He fought his first battle at the age of 14, fighting alongside his father in the clash against the rival Soma family. After his father’s death, Masamune became the head of the Date clan. He served shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi who once spared his life in admiration of his bravery in the face of death, but after his death pledged allegiance to Tokugawa Ieyasu who made him the lord of the Sendai Domain and one of the most powerful regional rulers in Japan.

Tomoe Gozen (c.1157-1247)

Tomoe Gozen was onna-bugeisha (female samurai), admired for her swordsmanship, bravery and strength, in addition to her extraordinary beauty. She fought in the Genpei War alongside Minamoto no Yoshinaka, to whom she was either a wife or a mistress. Her moment of glory came in the Battle of Awazu, in which Yoshinaka was killed. Yoshinaka told her that he wanted to die fighting, and urged her to leave the battlefield, because he did not want to die with a woman. There are many accounts of what happened next. According to some, she beheaded one samurai warrior and obliged by escaping the battlefield. Uchida Ieyoshi, a samurai warrior who betrayed Minamoto no Yoritomo, also died at her hands.

Uesugi Kenshin (1530-1578)

Uesugi Kenshin, born in Nagao Kagetora, was the most powerful feudal lord of the Sengoku period, along with Takeda Shingen. He was not only an exceptionally skilled warrior, but also a great administrator and trader. He had a longstanding rivalry with Takeda Shingen over the province of Kanto. Uesugi took the name Kenshin (meaning new sword) and become a Zen-Buddhist, taking a vow of celibacy and becoming vegetarian. He identified with the Buddhist god of war- Bishamonten. By defeating Oda Nobunaga he managed to prevent him from taking over Japan. Kenshin either died of a stomach cancer, or was murdered by a ninja who was hiding under the latrine.

Ishida Mitsunari (1559- 1600)

Ishida Mitsunari was the general of the Western army during the Sekigahara battle. When he was a 13-year-old boy he met Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who appointed him to his staff after enjoying three cups of tea that the boy served him. He went on to become Hideyoshi’s financial manager and administrator, in charge of diplomatic relations with foreigners, among other things. After Hideyoshi died, Tokugawa Ieyasu became one of the five rulers to rule in the name of Hideyoshi’s five-year-old son, and Mitsunari soon became disillusioned with him. He was caught by peasants and executed in Kyoto.

Kato Kiyomasa (1562- 1611)

Kato Kiyomasa, was instrumental in helping Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu to unite Japan. He was the relative of Hideyoshi, and fought alongside him in the Korean campaign, earning the nickname “Devil Kiyomasa“. He was one of the Seven Spears of Shizugatake, Hideyoshi’s bodyguards at the Battle of Shizugatake, and was awarded a lot of land for his service. He built a number of Buddhist shrines and was suppressing Christianity. Having acted as a mediator between Hideyoshi and Ieyasu on many occasions, Kiyomasa fell ill and died after one such meeting.

Sakamoto Ryoma (1836- 1867)

Sakamoto Ryoma was one of the most beloved and admired Japanese heroes, known as a “Japanese Che Guevara“ and celebrated in Japan’s popular culture. He fought against the Tokugawa shogunate, and was known for his visionary work and reforms striving for a more democratic Japan, based on equality. The fact that he managed to forge an alliance between Choshu and Satsuma provinces, proved instrumental in the overthrow of the Tokugawa shogunate in the Boshin war. He is also known as the “Father of the Imperial Japanese Navy“, since he established the flotilla to fight against the Tokugawa. He was assassinated by a band of assassins in the Omiya Inn at the age of 31 (only 5-minute walk from this museum.. The Kochi Ryoma Airport is named after him and there is a Sakamoto Ryoma Memorial Museum in the same city.

Ito Hirobumi (1841- 1909)

Ito Hirobumi was the first prime minister of Japan who was coming from a samurai family. He drafted the Meiji Constitution, looking up to Western models, owing to his England-based education. He became the first Prime Minister of Japan in 1885, and held the same position three more times, the longest tenure in the history of Japan. Following the Japan-Korea Treaty in 1905, he became the first Japanese Resident-General of Korea, and the President of the Privy Council of Japan, following Korea’s subsequent annexation. He was murdered at the Harbin Railway station, by a Korean nationalist and independence activist.

Hijikata Toshizo (1835- 1869)

Hijikata Toshizo born into a wealthy family in Musashi, went on to become the vice-commander of the Shinsengumi. He was practicing kenjutsu when he met Kondo Isamo, the fourth master of the Tennen Rishin-Ryu martial art, and became his disciple. He fought alongside his teacher at the Battle of Toba-Fushimi and replaced him at the Battle of Yodo-Senryomatsu, because Kondo was wounded. It is said that, after having lost many men in these battles, Toshizo realized that he would no longer have any luck in battles. After Kondo’s death, Hijikata announced the new “Republic of Ezo“. He was killed in the final conflict with the Imperial Forces, while riding on a horseback in combat.

Akechi Mitsuide (1528~1582)

Akechi Mitsuide was a daimyo of the Akechi clan and a general under Oda Nobunaga. He betrayed his master Nobunaga and ordered his troops to kill him. Soon after he was killed by a ronin and Toyotomi Hideyoshi started ruling Japan. Although this kind of betrayal is uncommon some say he was infuriate because Nobunaga insulted him publicly and Nobunaga killed the rulers of a major clan who in turn kidnapped Akechi’s mother and killed her.

Yasuke (1555-1590)

(an artist’s illustration of Yasuke)
Yasuke was a black samurai of African origin (from Ethiopia, Mozambique or South Sudan), described as being a foot taller than other men of his time and “having the strength of ten men“. He was brought to Japan in 1579, by Jesuit missionaries and made a bodyguard to Oda Nobunaga. Upon seeing him for the first time, Nobunaga found it hard to believe that his skin was really black, so he asked him to take his shirt off and scrub his skin to prove that it was not ink. Yasuke’s career as a samurai ended when Nobunaga committed a seppuku (ritual suicide), after being defeated by his former general Mitsuhide.

Kondo Isami (1834- 1868)

Kondo Isami was a swordsman and a renowned commander of the Shinsengumi. He was adopted by Kondo Shusuke, master of the Tennen Rishin-Ryu (Japanese martial art practiced by the Shinsengumi), who was impressed by the bravery of then a 13-year-old boy who saved his family home from a group of thieves. Isami went on to become the fourth master of the Tennen-Rishin-Ryu. He was wounded at the battle of Toba-Fushimi and nearly escaped the Imperial Forces at the Battle of Koshu-Katsunuma. He was finally caught by surprise during training in 1868, arrested by the Imperial Forces and beheaded at the Itabashi execution grounds. His head was put on public display, but it was stolen and buried behind an ancient shrine in Okazaki.

Saigo Takamori (1828- 1877)

Saigo Takamori, known as the last true samurai, resisted modernism and is hailed as a national hero in Japan. When he was a young man, his master died, and he, wanting to follow an old tradition of junshi, attempted to commit a suicide by jumping into a lake, but survived. When Japan was forced to signed the Treaty of Kanagawa and open its ports to American ships under the command of Commodore Matthew Perry, it ended Japan’s 220-year-old policy of seclusion (sakoku) and exposed the weaknesses of military dictatorship (shogunate). This event triggered the Meiji Restoration, with Emperor Meiji attempting to modernize the country and dismantle the old system of rule. When the reforms threatened samurai way of life, forbidding them from carrying their swords in public, ordering them to wear their hair in Western fashion, Saigo resigned from his government positions and established his own school, attracting as many as 20.000 young samurai. From there, he led the Satsuma rebellion against the central government. Details surrounding his death during the rebellion are not completely known, but it is believed that he committed a seppuku, either by himself or assisted by another samurai.

Kyoto Samurai Armor Yoroi/Kabuto For Sale at the Kyoto Samurai & Ninja Museum

Additional photos for the samurai armor for sale in Kyoto, Japan. The price is ¥600,000 + shipping. You will receive the armor in the box shipped to you via EMS. You will need to wire the money to our bank account before we ship. If you’d like you can have an acquaintance of yours visit the samurai museum and Samurai Experience Kyoto or  stop by our place in Osaka before you make the purchase decision, we are open 365 days a year. You will receive the armor in the box, so you have to assemble it on your own (takes about 15 minutes, there are videos on youtube about how to assemble a yoroi).

You can send us a direct message via our Facebook Page or via email

Perceive that which cannot be seen with the eye (Miyamoto Musashi)

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