I recently visited The Samurai Arts Museum in mid-2017 with Ian Bottomley, Curator Emeritus of Oriental Collections at the Royal Armouries for a private viewing of the museum prior to its official opening. After our visit, I was contacted by the museum’s owner Mr Peter Janssen and asked if I would be able to restore one of his armours. I agreed and flew out to Berlin to assess the state of repair required. The armour was originally owned and worn by Lord Kato Yasuzumi (加藤泰済, 1785-1826) who was the 10th Kato daimyo of the Ozu fief of Iyo province. The armour is spectacular and what I did not realise at the time is that it’s displayed and the museum’s centrepiece.
There was a certain amount of pressure to have the armour completed in time for the official opening. The original odoshi was black and had rotted away due to its age, however, the braid was not a standard width and I had to order extra silk fibres from Japan to make a custom ito. There was a delay in the braid reaching me and to add to the excitement UK Customs decided to hold my parcel for two weeks. Time was becoming an issue as the open day was drawing closer, dangerously close in fact.
I flew out again and worked around the clock to complete the restoration managing to complete the armour just one day before the grand opening. During my time at the museum, they had an elderly gentleman visiting. His name is Mr Okawado. Okawado sensei was the student and friend of the great Dr Sasama. He has been watching me work on the Kato Gusoku. This morning he came over and shook my hand and said that he approves of my standard. He also said that he would like to make a gift to me of Dr Sasama’s original notes for katchushi. I am totally humbled by this. I will try even harder now to follow this path.
Peter is very pleased with the restored armour and has now given me a number of additional restorations to fulfil for the museum.