Putting on Armor in Preparation Sugoroku Board 甲冑着用備双六

Utagawa Yoshikazu 歌川芳員/画

The illustrated sugoroku board, used for playing a game similar to Parcheesi, is thought to have originated in Pure Land sugoroku boards that depicted the Buddhist worldview, in the Muromachi-period (1336-1573). In the Edo period, illustrated versions of the game became popular, and sugoroku boards, with pictorial themes ranging from travel and the theater and its actors to the course of the human lifetime, were created in great profusion. The print shown here is one example dating from 1858, near the end of the Edo period. It illustrates the order in which armor is to be put on, starting with donning a loincloth. After other layers of clothing and the suit of armor, the warrior proceeds to arm himself with a sword, firearm, and other weapons, and finally, winning the game, becomes a victorious general. The Edo period is known as an age of peace remarkable in world history. For its warrior class, however, peace meant that opportunities to don armor diminished radically, and armor itself ceased to have much connection with battle; it became a richly decorative symbol of authority instead. Towards the end of that period, however, opportunities for wearing armor increased, as warriors were mobilized to defend Japan’s coasts, and, being out of practice, they may have struggled to cope with putting on all those pieces properly. This print shows a warrior who is quite out of practice clumsily putting on his gear. It presents the proper order for donning armor in an amusing way, and, in the process, reflects the state of society near the end of the Edo period, when a warrior’s basic knowledge had faded away.
Collection of
Edo-Tokyo Museum
Putting on Armor in Preparation Sugoroku Board
Collection ID
Printed Material
Utagawa Yoshikazu
Creation Date
1858 19世紀 
49.8cm x 72.8cm
Edo-Tokyo Museum Digital Archives

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