I received an e-mail last week from someone interested in what specific inspiration I used to make the samurai armor for my son, and I thought it would be cool to share some of the images we looked at while working on the project. First we looked at examples of samurai armor on the websites of museums that have actual armor in their collections, trying to see as much detail as possible.
Another cool source of inspiration was Edo-era photography of living samurai with their weapons and armor. It was really fortunate that camera technology arrived in Japan just as the era of the medieval warrior was ending there (1850s-1870s) and several photographers working in Japan at this time (including Baron Raimund von Stillfried, Felice Beato, Kusakabe Kimbei, and others) managed to capture some truly amazing images of actual samurai in their armor. There's just something about seeing this armor worn by the men it was built for that you just don't get from seeing it in a museum:
I really love this one of the Japanese antique dealer with his collection of samurai armor and weapons.
There must have been a real glut of that stuff before it was all scooped up by rich American tourists.
Of course, we had the most fun looking at dozens of colorful action-filled prints by Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) that we found in a book (as well as on the web):
Most of those prints come from Utagawa Kuniyoshi's set of warrior prints Taiheiki eiyu den (Heroic Biographies from the Tale of Great Pacification).