The exhibit at the Portland Art Museum called Samurai! is well documented in a magnificent book called "Art of Armor - Samurai Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection." The photography is stunning and the historical documentation of each suit of armor and artifact is very complete. What is missing from the book are close-up photos of the braids. For those interested in making kumihimo, I wanted to capture close-ups of the variety of braids. The lighting in the Museum is such that taking hand-held photos with a long focal length lens proved difficult. Despite these conditions, I think braiders will find even the somewhat out-of-focus photographs inspiring. In these photos are solid colored lacing cords (ODOSHI), multi-colored edge cords (TAKUBOKU or Woodpecker edge cords), the chevron cord (YABANE or arrow feathers), a sword cord (MITAKE GUMI), and round cords in both YOTSU GUMI and NAIKI GUMI.

In addition to the cords are examples of the AGEMAKI knot or dragonfly knot plus various lacing styles from overlapping KOZANE to lacquer coverd leather to gold-plated ceremonial armor. KABUTO or helmets, face-masks and full suits of armor are also documented to show the wide variety of Samurai craftsmanship. The suit of armor below is laced with leather rather than silk braids.

Variety of round and flat cords adorning samurai armor, swords, and saddles.
Iron face masks for warrior horses and samuria warriors with throat protection.
Three samurai warriors on horseback with close-up photos of the leather horse armor (BAGAI). Two seated warriors, one a child's armor in green, white and orange lacing cords.

According to “Art of Armor – Samurai Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection” horse armor developed in the Momoyama Period (1573-1603). The type of horse armor (BAGAI) in the Portland Art Museum exhibit was not battle tested, but rather “used only by the highest ranking samurai and was seen as a symbol of status during ceremonial processions.” The Samurai at the top left is seated on a horse made of “small leather squares coated in russet lacquer called SABIMURI. They are embossed and sewn onto silk brocade.” The second Samurai’s horse on the right is wearing “small tiles of gold lacquered pressed leather … stitched onto a fabric backing.” According to the book, the “lacquered leather scales were durable and dried quickly when in use.”

The seated figures above include a boy's armor on the left in coral, light green, beige and white..


Lacing on samurai armor including neck guards, shoulder, chest and skirt armor.