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Oikago, the framework of a horo.

A samurai wearing the horo, a garment used as a defense against arrows.

A horo, opened up flat.

A horo (母衣?) was a type of cloak or garment attached to the back of the armour worn by samurai on the battlefields of feudal Japan.


A horo was around 1.8 m (6 ft) long and made from several strips of cloth sewn together with a fringe on the top and bottom edges. The cloth strips were sewn together and formed into a sort of bag which would fill with air like a balloon when the wearer was riding a horse.[1] A light framework of wicker, bamboo or whale bone known as an oikago, similar to a crinoline, which is said to have been invented by Hatakeyama Masanaga during the Ōnin War (1467–1477),[2] was sometimes used to keep the horo expanded. Attaching the horo generally involved a combination of fastening cords and possibly a staff. The top cords were attached to either the kabuto (helmet) or (chest armor) of the wearer while the bottom cords were attached to the waist.[3] The family crest (mon) of the wearer was marked on the horo.[1]


Horo were used as far back as the Kamakura period (1185–1333).[4] When inflated the horo was said to protect the wearer from arrows shot from the side and from behind.[1][5][6] Wearing a horo is also said to have marked the wearer as a messenger (tsukai-ban) or person of importance.[7] According to the Hosokawa Yusai Oboegaki, the diary of Hosokawa Yusai (1534–1610) taking of an elite tsukai-ban messenger's head was a worthy prize. "When taking the head of a horo warrior, wrap it in the silk of the horo. In the case of an ordinary warrior, wrap it in the silk of the sashimono".[8]


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