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There is only one thing I could never understand about the samurais, or perhaps japanese warfare. Why they never used shields of any sorts. (At least I have never seen them).
Well,basically they learned to use Katanas so good they were 2in1 weapons.You can block with it,slice with it,cut with it and thrust with it.It is also lighter and takes much less space than shield does.They start training from a young age.I train Kendo and believe me You don't need a Shield when you know how to use a sword. ;)
Also maybe it was an economic problem.You see that they didn't make Steel\Iron-ish stuff except for Yaris and Katanas (Spears and Swords).They were relying on Bamboo and other wood types to make armors as seen in this picture.And they add multiple layers and voila,you got yourself an armor.The higher rank Samurai although used Chainmail,just like the general in the photo.
Well, It certainly does makes more sense that the "Honour code" a friend told me.
I don't know exactly how japanese warfare was conducted (I can only imagine it from what I've seen in Shogun TW2) specially sieges.
How would they aproach to an enemy wall without being killed by arrows if they had no kind of shields. And those armours have several weak spots in which an arrow could hit the samurai.
I don't believe that Samurai would be trusting their lives to bamboo armour, as you suggest. I also don't think that this image is showing bamboo armour, it is probably coloured and lacquered armour that makes it look like it might be made out of wood, but isn't (In this case, it looks reddish-brown).
While it is true that Japan is lacking in its quantity of iron... you would certainly use this sparingly-used resource on something to save your life, especially if you're a guy who's making some bulk Koku off his peasants! :)
I have also found through some personal research that apparently one of the larger things imported to Japan by the Portuguese and Dutch traders was Iron and Steel, so it seems that if iron could not be found, then a feudal lord or rich-guy could probably import it in at some expense.
While you do find examples of leather or iron armours existent during the 16th century, I have not come across or found any existent examples of bamboo armour. Did they exist? they might have, but probably for ceremonial wear and not for actual battlefield use.
So, by and large, i think your average samurai would be wearing something largely made with iron, or better, steel. If he could afford it, he might even have used imported nanban armour or perhaps the local variant of it, which was coming into popularity at the last portion of the 16th century. I just do not see a Samurai wearing anything else for battlefield usage, because at this time, the weapons that were entering the fray would tear apart anything else, from insidiously-effective polearm equipped ashigaru troops to guys wielding firearms, you don't want anything else with you when dealing with that kind of thing.
To the best of my knowledge, Japanese soldiers used to use shields... or at least they did before improvements in armour design meant that they became obsolescent in Japanese warfare (Around 800-900 C.E, or something like that anyway).
The Sode (Shoulder guards) are believed by some to have once been the old shields that gradually grew smaller and smaller before being incorporated into being an actual armour piece.
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