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Japanese Samurai Armor

Precious materials, fine details, and exceptional craftsmanship—all are hallmarks of the beauty and artistry in Japanese culture. Yet, some artworks are more than purely decorative. A clever design made this lightweight suit of armor highly protective when worn by a Japanese samurai warrior in hand-to-hand combat.

Armor, 17th century
iron, leather, lacquer, silk, wood, gold leaf and powder, bear fur
The Ethel Morrison Van Derlip Trust Fund

Serving in Style
A Sumptuous Suit
Fully Functional

Science of the Samurai Sword: Learn more about the samurai's sword and the fascinating science that lies beneath its beauty. Visit PBS's Nova Web site, Secrets of the Samurai Sword for an interactive experience, video, and a downloadable teacher's guide.  

Arms Around the World: Explore arms and armor from around the world at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Knights in Central Park Web site. Then try out its project with origami, the traditional Japanese art of paper folding, by creating an Origami Samurai Helmet. Extend this activity by selecting and enhancing your helmet with an insect, animal, or character that symbolizes courage for you.  

Bravery on the Battlefield: Today, the United States military fights for the freedom of people all over the world. Send a soldier a letter of thanks for his or her service to our country, or start a collection of care packages to ship to servicemen and women working in faraway places.  

Worldly Warriors: Use ArtsConnectEd to collect your own arms and armor. Or begin with this collection and sort it by culture, age, material, etc. Click here to access the collection. Click here to learn more about the Art Collector feature of ArtsConnectEd.  

See for Yourself: Plan a trip to the MIA to see arms and armor up close and personal. Download a Tour Request Form to book a tour. View Japanese samurai art in Gallery 252, then travel to see objects on extended loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the third floor in the Medieval Art Galleries (330 and 340). Compare what you see. What does the European armor have in common with the Japanese suit of armor? What differences do you notice? Which seem to be the most comfortable, flexible, and functional? What do you see that makes you say that?  

The Art of Asia: Use the MIA's The Art of Asia Web site to learn more about Japanese art and history. Browse the MIA's Japanese art collection and view a timeline of Japanese historical periods.