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Author Topic: Boshin War Samurai  (Read 329 times)

Offline doctorphalanx

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Boshin War Samurai
« on: November 06, 2019, 08:55:51 PM »
I’m aware of the Bac Ninh range of Westernised soldiers for the Boshin War, but I'm trying to get a handle on the appearance of unreformed, traditionally-armed Samurai during this period.

A number of sources suggest that after two-and-a-half centuries of peace, armour had fallen out of use, but Ian Heath's 'Japan and Korea (Armies of the Nineteenth Century)' - which seems to be the fullest and most authoritative English-language source - suggests otherwise. I note the cover of the forthcoming Osprey book on the Boshin War and the Satsuma Rebellion also features armoured Samurai.

As there is only a limited number of unarmoured Samurai models in 28mm available, the appropriateness of armoured Samurai is welcome.

Any views?

Offline AngusH

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Re: Boshin War Samurai
« Reply #1 on: November 07, 2019, 10:11:27 AM »
Armour by this time had become purely ceremonial (and quite garish really, compared to Sengoku/Early Edo period armours). There may have been instances of samurai wearing the ceremonial armour to battle but I don't remember reading any - I don't have the Heath book or any Osprey books on the period though, and it's been 15-20 years since I read about the period in any detail!

From what I do recall the Satsuma samurai and other allies wore traditional Japanese outfits & hair-dos and carried swords which had both begun to fall out of vogue (but was not yet illegal), and that was about as close as it came to 'The Last Samurai'-esque view of these soldiers.

For modelling purposes I would say it might make sense for generals and the like to stand out, but it's probably not authentic as far as battle-garb goes.

Offline Osmoses

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Re: Boshin War Samurai
« Reply #2 on: November 07, 2019, 06:30:58 PM »
Nitta Nakanishi's books for the period and Japanese TV dramas show some troops in partial armour, mostly simple haramaki. Sometimes arm and leg armour is worn, but never sode or kabuto. I guess the best bet would be to use something like Perry ashigaru with Bac Ninh Imperial heads.

Offline doctorphalanx

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Re: Boshin War Samurai
« Reply #3 on: November 08, 2019, 10:45:40 PM »
I am grateful for the responses. There definitely seems to be two schools of thought on this issue.

Can I make it clear that I am not relying on 'The Last Samurai', though I did enjoy the film when I first saw it!

Ritta Nakanishi’s ‘Japanese Uniforms 1842-1929’ shows a couple of armoured figures. One is a general, so a rather special case. The other is a yari-armed foot figure described as being in ‘Upper private’s service dress’. Other old-style Samurai are shown unarmoured.

Heath (page 62) says "A significant quantity of armour was still being worn as late as the Boshin War..." He says the very last occasion was during the Hagi and Satsuma Rebellions.

Algernon Mitford is quoted describing the contemporary wearing of armour (Page 76). Mitford was second secretary to the British Legation at the time of the Meiji Restoration.

A number of armoured figures are illustrated, based on contemporary photos, prints and books. One figure, entirely unarmoured, is described as unusual (Page 77). On page 81 he depicts two unarmoured Samurai with traditional weapons but says "some spearmen, however, still wore full armour."

This suggests some equivocation about the relative proportions of armoured and unarmoured Samurai, but I remain impressed with the wealth of well-referenced, contemporary sources.

I assume the armour was largely antique and one wonders how it would have survived (physically and culturally). I don't think that is discussed, but Heath does refer to "...matchlocks made as far back as the 16th or 17th century were still in working order in the mid-19th...Incredibly, in the 1850s and 1860s many were actually modernised into percussion firearms..." Even as late as 1894-95  several thousand were again retooled into bolt-action rifles.

Nakanishi and Heath, therefore, both support the occurrence of at least some Samurai in a more-or-less complete panoply, and I think one would be justified in including at least some Samurai in some armour.

Online OSHIROmodels

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Re: Boshin War Samurai
« Reply #4 on: November 08, 2019, 11:59:54 PM »
I’ve done a couple of Perry samurai with Bac Ninh head swaps and they work quite well (also the other way round).

I would say that there’s an element of the rule of cool at play here and if they feel right then go for it.

Some serious conversion work would suit as well like torso and arm swaps but it would depend on how confident you feel about doing that.

Offline doctorphalanx

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Re: Boshin War Samurai
« Reply #5 on: November 09, 2019, 02:39:24 PM »
As regards unarmoured, traditionally-armed Samurai the best sources seem to be Perry (https://www.perry-miniatures.com/product_info.php?cPath=23_38&products_id=2339) and North Star (http://www.northstarfigures.com/prod.php?prod=5453) and possibly a few figures from elsewhere.

Offline Yuber Okami

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Re: Boshin War Samurai
« Reply #6 on: November 09, 2019, 05:22:30 PM »
According to this https://www.wargamesfoundry.com/collections/military-history-books/products/japan-and-korea there actually were people wearing armour during the Boshin War (I remember they mentioned the samurai of Tosa domain in full armour just prior to Toba-Fushimi). Aside from that, you can see samurai in some prints (from wikipedia) wearing kabuto and armour but no sode:



The amount of armour worn during that conflict is unknown, although there are a few well documented instances, like the Tosa men or the (nominal) commander in chief of the imperialist camp, who wore a complete O-Yoroi. Some armour was inherited (and that's easily spotted in unreconstructed pictures as it doesn't fully fit the wearer!), some other was made to order for the samurai coming of age ceremony. At the beginning of the XIXth century there had been a revival of the functional sengoku period armour, although it had faded over time so most people wearing new armour would have been using archaic (O-Yoroi or Haramaki style) armour. Aside from that, the Shinsengumi are noted for using chainmail, helmet and gauntlets during the Ikeda-ya incident, but I don't know if they kept using it during the Boshin War.

Offline doctorphalanx

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Re: Boshin War Samurai
« Reply #7 on: November 10, 2019, 05:38:07 PM »
It would be good to have some figures in a mixture of Western and Japanese dress. The contemporary photos present a very mixed, even scruffy appearance.

Offline Yuber Okami

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Re: Boshin War Samurai
« Reply #8 on: November 11, 2019, 09:50:21 AM »
It would be good to have some figures in a mixture of Western and Japanese dress. The contemporary photos present a very mixed, even scruffy appearance.

Give Roku some time and I bet you'll have them.