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"Samurai and Ashigaru in mixed units?" Topic


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613 hits since 17 Nov 2020
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Comments or corrections?

Col Durnford Supporting Member of TMP17 Nov 2020 8:32 a.m. PST

1) Do Samurai and Ashigaru ever server in mixed units?

2) Most of the figures in my collection have the Samurai style helmet. Did the Ashigaru ever use that style of helmet or did they only use the conical helmet?

Thanks in advance for your advise.

DFLange Supporting Member of TMP17 Nov 2020 10:05 a.m. PST

Samurai might command Ashigaru but generally they served in separate units. Some Ashigaru used Samurai style helmets but the conical helmet was more common.

Rdfraf Supporting Member of TMP17 Nov 2020 2:26 p.m. PST

Samurai organization was a bit odd and complicated and differed throughout their history as well as among the different clans

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Berg geit18 Nov 2020 2:59 a.m. PST

1) As Rdfraf says, "It's complicated". I am trying to wrap my head around it. Currently, I have the notion that the samurai of one family would lead their group of footsoldiers into battle at the beginning of the Sengoku period but over the course of the period, things changed. Special unit types for the ashigaru emerged (Bow, Gun(usually with a couple of bows) and Spear/Pike). Samurai seemed to have been arranged in specialized units as well (bow, gun but predominantly polearm and some cavalry). Samurai seemed to my understanding have attendants, some of which would actually fight beside their master while others might be only there to carry the weapons of their master. Depending on the rank and wealth of the samurai, they might have non to a handful of (armed) retainers around them. Turnbull noted that a primary source said that a certain number of ashigaru, that a specific samurai had to muster, were his guards.

2) Generally speaking, the ashigaru were equipped with Jingasa, the conical hat, as DFLange said. This can often be seen in iconography. The way the ashigaru were armed and armoured is important to note as well. With less standardization, it would mean they could carry what they owned or collected to a certain degree but over the course of the 16th-century things be more standardized and weapons and equipment would sometimes be provided by the retainer who drafted the men or from the lord armoury. Simplistic kabuto styled helmets were sometimes used by ashigaru and Date Masamune went a step beyond this. There is a description from the Imjin war about the Date's ashigaru marching in Kyoto (these would have been his hatamoto ashigaru, his personal guards). They were armoured almost like samurai with a few exceptions: It was fully standardized, they didn't wear any kind of mask, they had no haidate (tight guards, particularly important for mounted men) and their helmets had large gold cones (think traffic cones but taller) on their helmets (Turnbull 2002, Samurai Warfare, 111).

Trokoshea18 Nov 2020 5:51 a.m. PST

To add to Berg's point 2, you must also understand that just before the invasion of Korea began (1592-), Hideyoshi had taken important measures that put an end to the social advancement through war participation: 1- civilians no longer were allowed to own weapons (Great Sword Hunt from 1588 onward), , 2- no further switch from a non combattant to a combattant role was allowed (Edict on Changing Status in 1591 that froze social mobility), 3- ashigarus de facto were brought to the lowest rank of the bushis.
So providing standardized and extensive equipment to the ashigarus (not as good as samurai's but quite close to) made sense from that point in time. But Sengoku Jidai was in most respect at its conclusion.

setsuko19 Nov 2020 2:58 a.m. PST

First of all, the distinction between samurai and ashigaru were not as clear as us wargamer might believe, and were not really cemented until AFTER the battles we recreate on the tabletop. There's no "samurai" helmets, only more or less expensive helmets it's hard to see the difference between a poor samurai and a well-off ashigaru. Poorer soldiers would more often have cheaper helmets, but there were no helmet police that would arrest an ashigaru not wearing jingasa. It's just the more common look.

There were definitely mixed units. Mounted samurai would be supported by ashigaru on foot. Samurai on foot would be supported by their henchmen. Samurai would serve as "officers" in teams of ashigaru. Exactly how this worked differed over time and every clan did not organize the same way. It's complicated.

So yeah, the main thing I want to emphasis is this: at first in the period, there were not as hard and fast rules between the social classes, the common view is from how things ended up AFTER the sengoku period, not how things were during that chaotic era. As the period neared it's end, the strict line was drawn between ashigaru and farmers/merchants: NOT between samurai and ashigaru. A lot of wargamers misunderstand this and belive that farmers and ashigaru had more in common vs the samurai, while the direct opposite is true.

Narcisista26 Nov 2020 12:04 p.m. PST

As mentioned the difference between samurai and ashigaru was always fungible.

Specifically regarding Kabuto and Jingasa at the start of the period por samurai could be found with Jingasa, and by the end of the period some kabuto styles were ubiquous enough to replace the Jingasa.

The tatami Kabuto comes to mind as do the simple Zunari and the Momonari style.

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