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Question Myochin Munekane armor in Leiden

niels j

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My name is Niels and I am a history student at Utrecht university. Nice forum you all have. 


Im writing a thesis about the Myochin Munekane armor in the Volkenkunde museum in Leiden. I discovered it's probably gifted by a Japanese shogun to the Dutch king William the third in 1855 after The Netherlands gifted a ship to Japan. But I found it hard to find a reliable source about this. Without source I can't use this interesting information.  

Does anyone on this forum have a source about this information? A newspaper, a letter, a reliable website, it's all just perfect. One sentence about the gift would be enough. 


Looking forward to your reply's. I added a photo of the armour for making sure where talking about the same piece. 


Kind regards, Niels



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Hey Niels, Ik begin nu aan een werkstuk over dit pantser, ik studeer in Utrecht. Ik heb nog niks echt gevonden, helaas, maar mocht ik iets vinden zal ik het meteen laten weten! Ik zal hier ook blijven kijken. 



had je al op deze thread gekeken? Misschien begrijp ik het verkeerd, maar dit kan dus hetzelfde pantser zijn ( of niet), maar misschien dat deze OP meer weet. Hij lijkt de familie te kennen. Het plaatje komt redelijk overeen. 

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40 minutes ago, Luc T said:

Dag Niels, wat wil je juist weten?

het harnas was een geschenk van de Shogun aan de koning van Nederland.

er is nogal wat geschiedenis rond.


Heeft u iets van een bron toevallig over het pantser of de maker? 

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I also have a copy of the original diary, but it is in Japanese.  In the diary, thereis the description of the set as it can de seen today.   More information can be asked at Dr Bas Verberk, the curator of the Cologne Asian museum.  I can send you his coordinates if you want.

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Ruben and Niels, I found a source that might come in hand for both of you. It's a document written by Dr Bas Verberk and it does mention the armor we are investigating and history behind it.



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Many thanks for the reply's and the sources, it will help me with writing the essay. 


I had contact with the curator of Museum Volkenkunde in Leiden (Daan Kok) and he also confirmed it was a gift from shogun Tokugawa Iesada to Willem the third. 


Goodluck with your work Aleksander and Ruben!

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Meskien. Maar wat as ek skielik begin net in Afrikaans pos? Nee......laat ons maar ook in Engels vertaal asseblief.

"Maybe. But what if I suddenly begin posting only in Afrikaans? No....let's rather also translate into English please"

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  • 1 month later...

Hello Niels, and Alexander


I am new to this forum and was interested in your thesis and interest in munechika.


I believe the only reliable source about Myochin ki Munechika ( it is the same reading as Munekane, but apparently when he was register as a resident in Edo, he insisted on being registered as Munechika)  is his diary ( In Japanese).

Munechika was probably the last "official" armor maker  of the bakufu, hence this official gift given to the Dutch king. Unfortunately, on the 2 armors that was given, the maidates are missing. The armors left Japan with the Maedate, and there is big chance they reach Holland but for some reasons were lost ( stolen?, storage? war?). That would be an interesting search if there is some document of this period left . 



Munechika was a well know armor maker, and made armors for both bakufu officials, and individuals ( who could afford his work). His adoptive father and Munechika as well, had some students, and their work are very, (incredibly)  similar. In Mr. Ishida book, you have a genealogy of this branch, and students.

When Munechika was called by the bakufu to work in Edo, he became extremely famous, and very wealthy. Munechika -'s armor was like having a Hermes bag. It was about status and prestige.

He had a workshop, and over the years, I was lucky enough to find 3 sets of his armors with the exact scale size, even the fabric used for 2 of them were identic. 2 of the armors are signed, and the other one ( leather) is not signed, but easy to tell, they were made using the same scales, and from the same workshop. Even the maidate come from the same clan. I do not know why this leather armor is not signed.( Made by one of his student? No sign on leather armors? )


Mr. Ishida who was a specialist of Myochin ( unfortunately passed away a couple years ago), asked Munechika descendant about any left documents from Munechika. They had a lot, but everything was destroyed during the Bombing of Tokyo during WW2.


What is left ( for now may be) is his diary, and studying his armors. Signature and date are usually found under the right arm. Some other Sangu parts can have a signature but not mandatory. If it is a full set, you should have the signs in the helmet ( with the date), the mask, and the cuirass ( right arm sign and dates)

For "tatami" armors, sign and date in the helmet, sign in the mask, and sign and date on the cuirass, but hidden under the back plate.


Of course as an armor maker, he also made some renewal work on damaged armors, made new armors using old helmet for example, etc. I saw an interesting helmet few years ago, but probably not his work. Only the shikoro was signed. Munechika probably only made the shikoro to match the helmet. Sometimes it was a collaborative work, where he did only one part of the armor.


Hope it helps. Good luck in your thesis. Would be very interested to read it when completed.


Kind regards

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Dear Niels,


To complete my previous mail, The armor in Leiden is unique . It was made exactly for the purpose of being a gift to a king. It shows the craftmanship of Munechika, but it is probably the only one he made with this style. Future will tell, but there is no record or evidence of another one like this one. I would recommend not to consider the armor in Leiden as typical of his work.


The "standard" armors of Munechika ( the late edo Munechika) are different, but also of very high quality.

Up to date ( and unless hopefully )new armors shows up, I believe there is ( including the 2 armors in Leiden) about 10 complete set of armors of Munechika in the world, few helmets , and few parts ( do, sode,etc.) mostly signed.

For the mask, there is 3 main types, and it seems over the years, he kept the same patterns.


Munechika also made tsuba. Their designs were all quite different, but very well made as well. But that's another story.


If you need to add pictures in your thesis of munechika works ( armors and tsuba), let me know, and I will send you some.


Your search is very interesting. Good luck, and let me know if I can be of any help.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Dear Uwe,


If the first day is like this, cannot wait for the second day.....!! Thank you SO MUCH.


Now , as you could expect, few questions.


A) Kabuto alone with the "上”family crest. I believe I have seen a picture of it few years ago on the net. If my memory is correct, it has a probably 10cm round maedate with the same family crest.

Is this ( probably original to the helmet) maedate still part of this helmet? Is this helmet in a private collection?.

B) Mempo and do

Very nice.

C) Kabuto with a sign on the shikoro. Not sure the helmet itself was made by Munechika. But judging from your picture, it seems that there is a window in the Ukebari. Do you have information to confirm that the helmet is also signed by Munechika?

D) unfortunately the fabric ( silk ) is in poor condition. It is not unusual for Munechika's armor. Don't know why. I have noticed that on lots of his armor. For the price he was selling his armor, he could have made an effort on his suppliers....

E) The last gusoku, is very interesting. The whole gusoku reflect his work no doubt. We are lucky he also put the date of his work, and they both match. What doesn't match is the mei sign. The one on the do use the kanji saku, which ( for now) was in line with the rest of his armor sets. But the helmet as a kanji "kao" at the end. The kabuto is a genuine Munechika, the kanji are good, and in line with the others mei we know of Munechika. It is obviously a complete set of armor. No clue why he would use a different kanji. Any idea on this? All the other complete set of Munechika armor I know have both the same sign and date. Is this set in a private collection or in a museum?


Thank you so much for send the pictures Uwe. Cannot wait for tomorrow........!!

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Hi Marc,


I don't like to disappoint you, but I'm afraid, that these were the only references I have in my archive about Munekane/Munechika (for the time being).....


Now to your questions:






I guess you meant this maedate (Maru ni kami, probably "Muroga")?! Unfortunately, I do have no further info about the remainder of that piece.


B)/C) The gusoku with the golden signatures is in a private collection here in Germany. The kabuto itself  is mumei!


D) That's true! Maybe he tried to save some money ;-)


E) The last armor is indeed very typical. I like the "nami-gata" shaped hagi-ita of the helmet. It was for sale a while ago. So I assume it landed in a private collection somewhere.

In terms of his diffrent signatures, I would not put so much attention to this fact. He often signed "...作之" (kore wo tsukuru), but sometimes simply "...作" (saku). In case of the menpo above, even without anything.....


Some bonus material:







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Thank you Uwe,

Very nice.


Regarding the last armor (E), fully understand that Munechika used different "option " , but for the mei and date, the do always match the kabuto . First time I see the kabuto with one patern, and the do with another. I was just wondering if there is any specific reason to this. Do you have record of other armor makers doing the same thing?

I have all my Munechika files in my hometown, but If my memory is correct this set was on sale in 1998 at Kinokuniya. It was a poor black & white quality picture, and cannot remember clearly, but I think the Maedate was the same. Not sure.

If it was on sold, do you know who sold it and to whom. I would be interested to get more pictures of it. If someone from this great community recognize this armor, I would love to get in touch.....

Flags, and Maedate are nice bonuses.....Hope they will stay with this original armor. We see too many case, where people sell only the maedate or the flags. It is great Uwe that you keep record of those armors in their original condition.


To your Munechika's database, I am adding few more pictures of munechika armors. 


I would like to attract your attention to the 3 tatami gusoku. They have an interesting story. From left to right, we will call them A,B and C.


A is signed Myochin ki Munechika date 1848 ( iron), B is signed Myochin ki munechika date 1858 ( iron), C is not signed ( leather)


Till now, easy to understand, but now sit tight.....


A has the same Hanpo as C, B has an Hanpo similar to the armor on the other picture.

A has the same do, haidate as B and C.

A has the same kote and sode as C. Means that B has a different set. At the begining I was a bit suspicious about those sode being original to this armor, but B and C share the same silk fabric, means they were probably made at the same period.....


B and C have the same kabuto. Some genius separate the kabuto from the rest of the armor, but judging from the kabuto of its brothers B&C, I have a pretty good idea what it may look like.

B and C have the same shape of Maedate. Those Maedate are original to their armor ( I was lucky).This maedate is from their clan symbol. I have looked around, and cannot find which clan it is. If anyone knows about this clan, I am really interested to know. One more hint. The kuginuki is the base for the 2 family crest.


Those 3 armors are like the rosette's stone. If something is missing on one, the 2 others have it and vice versa.


Still there?


A, B, C all share the same back plate system to hold the do straight, and when I say they are similar, it means that all the parts were made at the exact same scale. Obviously from the same workshop. Munechika had a workshop, and here the proof of his armor "mass production".


Uwe, is there any record of leather armor signed . I have seen leather armors signed in red lacquer ( genuine or not? Hard to tell with writing)  but I am thinking of 2 or 3 leather armors that you know were made and signed by an armorer?.


If you are still there, thank you for your help on my questions.


Kind regards


PS : The flags on the back are not related to those armors. Except for the one with the Tsuyama clan, related to the armor on the right with the same maedate.








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