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Art in War

Samurai: Armor from the Collection of ©The Ann & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum, Dallas.

The High presents the largest collection of samurai armor outside of Japan in this exhibition, which illuminates the artistic legacy of the samurai warrior. Look for these pieces when you visit.

Armor of the Yokohagidō Type

The bold colors of this suit would help a samurai stand out on the battlefield. The horizontal chest plates provided protection against firearms. The armored sleeves are fitted with reinforcement plates on the upper arms, each embellished with two Sanskrit characters in gold lacquer. These symbols refer to four of the “Five Great Buddhas” of the mandala from esoteric Buddhism. Fewer plates and less lacing made this suit faster to manufacture without sacrificing protection or appearance. 

Helmet representing the Flaming Jewel (Hōju-nari Kaen Kabuto) 

This exquisitely crafted helmet takes the form of the flaming jewel, a common symbol in Buddhist imagery. Each of the flanges has been cut from a single piece of iron into a series of flickering flames that join at the crown to form a larger flame. The turned-back side deflectors are also shaped like flames. The frontal crest, which looks like an upside-down heart, inome (“boar’s eye”), within a circle symbolizes Marishiten, Buddhist goddess of archers.

Armor of the Nuinobedō Type 

This impressive suit of armor originally belonged to the great commander Kobayakawa Takakage (1533–1597), who led twenty thousand Japanese troops to victory in the Battle of Pyokje in Korea in the 1590s. It was kept in the possession of the same family, the Mōri, for 300 years. In 1923, a British missionary purchased the suit and eventually sent it to England. The ensemble has changed hands only three times since leaving the Mōri lineage.

The exhibit opens June 23 and runs through September 17, 2023. High.org

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