Take a peek at 3 of the most interesting X-rays featured in The Samurai Collection's latest exhibit, Inside the Armor.

Looking at the uniformly red-lacquered exterior of this kawari kabuto (elaborately-shaped helmet), it is difficult to understand its inner workings. The x-ray illustrates a unique construction technique that was developed by Japanese craftsmen in the sixteenth century. The concealed iron bowl, which served as the main protection for the warrior’s head, is clearly visible in the x-ray. The wave-like structure over the bowl was fabricated using harikake, a papier-mâché-like technique that enabled helmets to be produced in any imaginable form, creating unique and personal insignias.

Samurai armor is made with iron and/or leather plates that are coated in lacquer, making it difficult to establish their composition. The x-ray of this shoulder guard shows a concentration of iron scales (bright white on the x-ray) that covered the upper portion of the arm, which required the most protection. The periphery sections were created with leather scales that, though visible when looking at the object, are virtually unnoticeable in the radiographic image. Alternating iron and leather plates reduced the armor’s weight.

The portions of Japanese armor that are most susceptible to age (lacing, lacquer, fabric) are those located on the outside of the objects. The craftsmen understood that the interior structure and its endurance translated to survival for the warrior. The x-ray sees past the damaged and deteriorating exterior of this early fifteenth century helmet to reveal preserved inner construction that looks much as it would have the day it was made. The quality of the helmet’s interior materials enabled it to be passed down through the generations. Its age is only skin deep.

The Samurai Collection is located at 2501 N. Harwood St in the HARWOOD District, on the floor above Saint Ann Restaurant & Bar.

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