by: Andrzej Snigorski [ ]
Originally published on:
Samurai were nobility and military force of pre-industrial, feudal Japan. The word “samurai” means “those who serve in close attendance to the nobility”, but in later ages it became almost synonymous with another word “bushi” which means “warrior”. Samurai life, moral code, honor rules and even death were described by “Bushidō” – “the way of the warrior”, a set of rules samurai had to follow.
Origin of samurai class reaches VII century and increasing power of Emperor and it spreads from X to XIX century.
The most interesting for us (because of the figure described below) is the Sengoku jidai (“Warring States period”) and later era. Sengoku jidai was a very turbulent period of war between Japanese clans that lasted from the middle of the XV century to the beginning of the XVII century. During this period Japanese war tactics and technologies improved. Tosei-gusoku armor described below is a great example of this improvement.
The Sengoku period in Japan would eventually lead to the unification of political power under the Tokugawa shogunate.
During the Tokugawa shogunate, samurai gradually lost their military function and became courtiers, bureaucrats, and administrators rather than warriors.
Samurai class had great influence on the culture of Japan. Parts of law code in Tokugawa period, Japanese savoir-vivre, martial arts (even in modern edition) have their roots in Bushidō and samurai code.
Pegaso Models offers amazing 90mm figure representing a samurai in Tosei-gusoku armor sculpted with amazing care and precision by Victor Konnov.
Samurai stands in a very dynamic position of attack with his right leg behind him and his left leg stepped forward. His torso is twisted as he holds his weapon - naginata - in a way suggesting that he is going to strike the opponent with kiriage, upward cut. He shouts with battle fury clearly painted on his face.
The weapon he holds, naginata, is a Japanese pole weapon similar to European glaive that consists of a 30-60cm long curved blade on the 120-240cm long shaft nagaye (or ebu). Area of the nagaye where blade’s tang nakago is inserted is called tachiuchi and is re-enforced with metal ring (naginata dogane or semegane) and metal sleeves (sakawa). The end of nagaye have metal end cap called ishizuki. Naginata he holds have a sword-like hand guard (tsuba).
The armor our samurai wears definitely suggests we’re dealing with warrior in high rank.
His head is protected with kabuto helmet. All parts of the kabuto are perfectly visible – center top piece – tehen, neck guard – shikoro with fukigayeshi (blow-backs preventing a downward sword blow from slipping between the lames of shikoro), demon mask maedate, forehead plate mabisashi and shime-o cord keeping the helmet on samurai’s head.
Cuirass - dō – worn by our samurai is a Hotoke dō - Japanese version of the globose breastplate. It is smooth and shows no sign of lames. The term Hotoke means “Buddha” and is a reference to the smooth, round bellies of Buddhist statuary. Tokugawa Ieyasu used to wear this kind of armor himself. Our samurai’s armor is decorated with relief of lion and flowering plum blossoms on watagami shoulder loops assuring us about his high social position.
Laced to the bottom of the dō are kusazuri – skirt of plates protecting hips, groin and posterior.
Throat is protected by nodowa.
Shoulders are protected by the sode (“broad sleeve”) with kanmuri ita (“crown plate”).
Arms are covered with kote –sleeves made of cloth and hide with chain mail attached to it with additional hijigane elbow protection. Forearms are protected by shino and hands are covered with tekkô gauntlets.
Thighs are protected by haidate which were made from cloth with small iron and leather plates of various size and shape sewn to the cloth.
Shins are protected with tsubo suneate guards.
On his feet he wears tahi socks and waraji sandals made of straw.
Underneath the armor our samurai wears yoroi hitatare – combination of hitatare robe and hakama trousers.
Attached to the back dō there is a sashimono – small banner with family mon worn for identification during the battle when the armors were not unified and warriors needed some way to identify the wearer as friend or foe.
Strapped to his side by obi belt our samurai has his daishō – set of long sword katana and short sword wakizashi.
Kit comes in a big (~21x17x4,5cm) cardboard box with Pegaso Models logo and company information printed on it. In front of the box there are few pictures of figure assembled and painted by Diego Ruina taken from different angels.
Inside the box we find 28 parts:
1. Head with hachi (bowl of the helmet)
2. Left fukigayeshi
3. Right fukigayeshi
5. Mabisashi forehead plate
6. Demon mask maedate
7. Nodowa throat armor
9. Left arm
10. Right arm
11. Left leg
12. Right leg
13. Left sode
14. Right sode
15. Left haidate
16. Right haidate
17. Kusazuri (double)
18. Kusazuri (double)
19. Kusazuri (double)
20. Kusazuri (single)
21. Kusazuri (single)
22. Naginata blade
23. Naginata nagaye with samurai’s hands
27. Sashimono’s fitting
(You can check picture with parts marked with matching numbers for identification)
They are protected by the polyfoam slabs. Base is placed under the bottom slab, but rest of the parts are kept safely between them. Some smaller parts are additionally packed in a plastic bag. Some longer and delicate parts were bended a bit, but they are really easy to correct and no part was actually damaged.
Assembly and painting
There is no assembly instruction except for pictures of assembled figure but parts are made in a way to assure proper assembly – most of them have pegs matching holes only in one area so one would have to put a lot of effort to assemble the figure in a wrong way.
Inside the box there are two sheets of paper with short historical introduction and basic information on painting and basic armor parts in English, German, French and Italian. This short leaflet and pictures on the box (or Pegaso Models website) are quite good painting reference.
Figure is big and parts are really heavy so the choice of glue is important. You don’t want to see your figure fall apart under its own weight so I’d really recommend some epoxy or other equally strong substance to keep the samurai’s parts together.
Details and quality
Japanese armor is basically made of lacquered metal plates tied together with silk cords. As such it is perfect subject for painter but real challenge for sculptor. Viktor Konnov did a great job depicting the armor in smallest details. Starting from kabuto’s sections, the way shikoro rests on shoulders, demon face maedate, rivets on fukigayeshi, through cords sculpted with great care on each and every piece of armor, to katana’s tsuka (hilt) wrapped with tsuka-ito, butt cap kashira and tsuba hand guard. Each and every detail is sculpted with great care and shows huge amount of work Viktor and his colleagues from Pegaso Models put into research to recreate the samurai in his full glory.
Casting is very good. Although some parts have flesh present on them (sashimono, fukigayeshi, etc. you can see it on the pictures) and delicate seam lines are visible on several areas of legs, naginata, and even head, these are not big errors especially if you take the scale under consideration – this size of error would be much more affecting smaller parts, but we’re talking about 90mm figure here.
Fitting is good. Some preparation of joint surfaces is needed (small casting errors removal) but parts are well prepared and well designed for assembly.
Well, in my subjective opinion this is one of the best samurai figures on the market. It joins great design, striking pose, perfect sculpting and high quality. Few errors are typical technological errors and it would be difficult to find figure totally free of them. You can clearly see that figure was carefully researched.
It sure is not cheap but I’ve paid ~90 € for it and I consider this money well spent. What you get is big beautiful figure of high quality.
“Samuraje. Ilustrowana historia.” (“Samurai. An Ilustrated History”)
“Samuraje. Uzbrojenie. Ekwipunek. Ubiór” (“Samurai. Arms, armor, costume.”)
“Samuraje” (org. “Samurai – wojennoje sosłowije Japonii”)
Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy
Sengoku Daimyō – The website by Anthony J. Bryant
Pictures of painted figure are from vendor’s web site