Five of the most expensive pieces of Samurai armour



2015-06-26 11:33:20

We take a look at five of the most expensive pieces of Samurai armour ever sold at auction

5) Yoshitsune-Gote Do-Maru armour - $165,407

This complete suit of armour dates to the Edo period (17th-18th century) and is one of a handful of examples on the private market outside of Japan. Armour produced in the later part of this period was largely for display only, as there had been no war in Japan since the early 1600s.

Yoshitsune-Gote refers to the elaborate sleeves, designed to mirror a pair in the Kasuga Grand Shrine in Nara that once belonged to Minamoto no Yoshitsune (1159-1189) – the most famous Samurai warrior in history. Do-Maru refers to chest armour that opens on the right hand side.

The boots are decorated with gilt metalwork depicting peonies and other wildflowers, while the helmet features an arresting pair of horns and a mask in the likeness of a “Shigume” or death spirit.

It made £103,250 ($165,407) at Christie’s London in 2012.

4) Orange and Purple Harumaki armour - $341,000

The armour features orange and purple highlights - Image: Bonhams

Neo Masanobu, a well-known artisan of the Edo period, produced the helmet for this example with elaborate scrolls and prayer wheels.

While it features plate metal in its construction, it was designed to be used on foot rather than mounted on horseback – resulting in its lightweight construction.

It sold for $341,000 at Bonhams’ Arts of the Samurai sale in New York in October 2013.

3) Conch-shaped Kawari Kabuto - $377,000

The unusual helmet is in the shape of a conch shell - Image: Bonhams

Kawari Kabuto refers to an oddly shaped helmet, which were produced through the application of papier-mache and lacquer.

Designs ranged from the simple to the wildly eccentric, with this example produced in the shape of a conch shell – an important symbol in Samurai culture as they were used both in summoning troops and in the call to prayer.

While the maker remains anonymous, it is known to date to the Edo period and made $377,000 at Bonhams New York in October 2013.

**2) 13th century Kamakura blade - $418,000 **

A blade from the same era, and of similar quality, by Masamune - Image: Wikimedia Commons

While not technically an item of armour, the katana is as much an essential part of the Samurai wardrobe as any other item on this list.

It is rare for early katana to come up for auction outside of Japan due to strict laws on their export. They are viewed as national treasures, with examples by the most prominent swordsmiths considered priceless.

This sword was the highlight of the 1992 sale of the Dr Walter Ames collection at Christie’s New York, considered the most important sale of Japanese blades ever to take place in the West. It was produced in the Kamakura region in the 13th century and made $418,000.

1) Honkozane Nimai Do Gusoku armour - $602,500

The most valuable suit of Japanese armour in the world - Image: Christie's

This item set a new world record for a suit of Japanese armour at auction when it sold for $602,500 at Christie’s New York in 2009.

It dates to the early part of the Edo period and was produced for the Kii Tokugawa family, one of the most powerful in feudal Japan.

It was formerly in the collection of the Idemitsu Museum of Arts in Tokyo.

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