Full suits of samurai armor, helmets, masks, weapons, and horse armor provide a glimpse not only into the origins of Japanese armor, but also the world of the samurai warrior in Japanese culture. The power is found in the details as armor was both protection and a source of pride.
This unique and exceptional set of samurai armor comprises an entire military outfit, which belonged to the Mōri family of daimyo. The group includes weapons, armor, equestrian equipment, and personal belongings. It is the only known ensemble of its kind to exist in the Western world.
The daimyo suit of armor is complete and all components bear the mon (heraldic family crest) of the Mōri clan.
It is reported that the armor was a gift to daimyo Kobayakawa Takakage (1532–1596), originally a member of the Mōri Motonori family, for his efforts in the unsuccessful invasion of Korea ordered by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. There is evidence that the suit of armor was remounted in the mid-eighteenth century with some elements added at that time.
In June 1910, the Reverend William A. Richards arrived in Tokyo with The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, an Anglican missionary group. In 1922, Richards moved to Yamaguchi to teach English at a boys’ school. When Baron Mōri passed away in 1923, Richards purchased the magnificent set of military items from the estate, which he eventually sent to England in 1928. The ensemble was displayed at the Birmingham City Museum until the start of World War II and subsequently kept in storage until Richards retrieved it in 1949. The Mōri set remained on loan to the Manchester University Museum from 1969 to 1979 and was then sold by Richards’ family. The new owner, in turn, held the set until the mid-1990s, when it entered the present collection—the third since it left Mōri lineage.
This impressive set belongs to the traveling collection of The Ann & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum: The Samurai Collection, which will make its next appearance at the Phoenix Art Museum March 1, 2017.