Over the last year I’ve been gradually parading each army in my wargaming collection for inspection to take stock of what I’ve got. In this posting in my On Parade! series, it is the turn of my Shogunate Japanese armies.
For this posting, I started by taking the above photo of my entire Japanese collection on its shelf in my display case. By chance, the lighting and background almost gives the impression of a traditional Japanese kabuki theatre show! You really must click on this photo to see it at full effect.
Here’s the first samurai I ever painted. I had a great deal of trepidation when I started work on the complicated armour of this 28mm Kingsford figure. Painting the intricate silk lacing was quite a challenge. I used an almost dry brush to pick out the well-sculpted threads. While the result doesn’t bear too close scrutiny, the overall effect has (I think) worked quite well.
I based the colour-scheme on an Angus McBride plate in the Osprey book ‘The Samurai’. The plate portrays an unnamed samurai in c.1553. This is clothed and armoured almost the same as the samurai in the book, so I suspect they may both have used the same source.
Now my first samurai is joined by his buntai (warband) of Kingsford 28mm warriors. They carry a mix of weapon types – yari (spear), teppo (arquebus) and yumi (bow). Such a mixture of weaponry within the same unit is historically correct for Japanese soldiers of this period.
I painted these models as retainers of the Takeda clan. I used VVV decals for the small sashimono (back banner) worn by most of the figures, but I hand-painted the Takeda mon (badge) onto the large banner.
The soldiers’ armour is mainly rust-coloured, and their clothing various shades of beige or sand. Their samurai leaders are more variegated.
To oppose my Takeda buntai, here is the Hojo clad. The carry the triple triangle emblem on their yellow sashimono, which I drew with a drafting pen. Their large standard portrays the so-called ‘five lucky colours’.
The foot soldiers’ armour is mainly black, with light blue lacing and clothing. Their samurai leaders are clothed in different colours according to taste.
I’d admired this set of 28mm Perry Miniatures unarmoured samurai for many years. So although I settled on Kingsford for my armoured samurai, this set did not escape my clutches.
There are three things I particularly like about these figures:
- The way they look so Japanese – something indefinable, but definitely there.
- The realistic poses imbued with so much flowing movement.
- Their wonderful facial expressions, straight out of the TV series ‘Shogun’!
These figures are from are North Star’s Koryu Buntai set, modelled after the eponymous characters from the 1952 movie Seven Samurai.
Seven Samurai is set in war-torn 16th-century Japan, where a village of farmers look for ways to ward off a band of robbers. Since they do not themselves know how to fight, they hire seven ronin (lordless samurai) to fight for them.
- Kikuchiyo – a humorous character who initially claims to be a samurai, and even falsifies his family tree and identity. Mercurial and temperamental, he identifies with the villagers and their plight, and he reveals that he is in fact not a samurai, but rather a peasant. Eventually however, he proves his worth.
- Shichirōji – an old friend of Kambei (the leader of the Seven Samurai) and his former lieutenant. Kambei meets Shichirōji by chance in the town, and he resumes this role.
- Kyūzō – initially declined an offer by Kambei to join the group, though he later changes his mind. A serious, stone-faced samurai and a supremely skilled swordsman whom Katsushirō is in awe of.
- Kambei Shimada – a ronin and the leader of the group. The first samurai recruited by the villagers, he is a wise but war-weary soldier.
- Heihachi Hayashida – an amiable though less-skilled fighter. His charm and wit maintain his comrades’ good cheer in the face of adversity.
- Gorōbei Katayama – a skilled archer recruited by Kambei. He acts as the second-in-command and helps create the master plan for the village’s defence.
- Katsushirō Okamoto – a young untested warrior. The son of a wealthy landowner samurai, he left home to become a wandering samurai against his family’s wishes. After witnessing Kambei rescue a child who was taken hostage, Katsushirō desires to be Kambei’s disciple.
A busy track sometime during the Sengoku Jidai (‘Warring States’) period, in the shade of a castle and some cherry-blossom trees.
An old-timer ambles along, whilst a mother drags her bawling child, following a well-dressed lady. A ronin stands with his sword over his shoulder. Two workers hurry along, one carrying a mattock and the other with goods balanced on a pole. Meanwhile a yellow-clad monk watches the passing traffic.
These are all Perry figures.
This geisha by Kensei practises her moves with a pair of fans.
If you’re going to do samurai skirmish gaming, you might as well go the whole hog so far as stereotypical Japanese terrain is concerned. I think I’ve pushed all the buttons here: cherry blossoms, humpbacked red footbridge, and a sturdy torii ornamental gate!
This model, which is also included in the above-mentioned North Star koryu buntai set, depicts the manga comic hero Ogami Ittō. He was the shōgun‘s executioner, but disgraced by false accusations from the Yagyū clan, he is forced to take the path of the assassin. Along with his three-year-old son, Daigorō, they seek revenge on the Yagyū clan and are known as ‘Lone Wolf and Cub’.
Don’t forget to visit my other On Parade! postings, in which I’m gradually doing inspection parades of every army in my wargaming collection.