This is a complete Samurai costume worn by Ujio (Hiroyuki Sanada) in the 2003 epic film The Last Samurai, directed by Ed Zwick. Sanada was chosen for the role as he is a well-known and highly-regarded Japanese actor. Ujio is one of the lead Samurai in the film along with Katsumoto, and is the toughest warrior in the film.
This costume was designed by Ngila Dickson, the Kiwi costume designer best known for her work on The Lord of the Rings films. The costume design on The Last Samurai was Oscar nominated, and in fact Dickson lost the Oscar for Samurai that year to her own work on The Return of the King. The costumes were constructed under the direction at Richard Taylor and WETA, although much of the actual fabrication was farmed out to some of WETA’s armor makers.
This complete costume was obtained directly from Warner Brothers Archives, and includes their paperwork. It is believed to be the only complete Ujio costume in private hands, and it is unlikely that another costume will ever be released. The sword were obtained from another source who obtained them directly from Warner Brothers. The swords do not have WB paperwork.
To show the full complexities and intricacies of this costume, we have photographed it on a mannequin in several layers, and also photographed the components individually. We have also photographed the extensive labeling found throughout the costume. The suit was crafted as a replica of a genuine period Samurai armor, and while many of its finer features cannot be appreciated on screen, all were in place to give the film a more authentic feel. A good example of this is the beautiful lining fabrics on the underside and interior of many of the armor components.
The main component of the costume, the chest armor, can be screen matched to several shots during the battle scene. It is evident in looking at the film that the weathering / paint on the armor was probably modified on set during production, and thus matching other components is difficult. All components show signs of film use, and most are labeled. Some labels indicate use for Riding scenes (Sanada did much of his own riding for the film), and some are labeled “Dbl” which in this instance means a double to the first hero costume, not used by a double or stand-in in the film.
From the inner layers to the outer, these are the components of the costume:
Hitatare (robe) and Hakama (pants) – The robe is comprised of two different tunics, a cream-colored tunic and a burgundy embroidered tunic that goes over it. The tunics feature Velcro tabs to hold them together in the correct position, and ties at the waist. The cream colored tunic is labeled “Ujio Hero” and the Red tunic is labeled “Ujio”. The pants are in the distinctive Samurai styling with baggy leggings, and are also made from an embroidered fabric. They are labeled “Ujio” hero, and feature waist ties as well as shin ties.
Wakibiki (vest) – A waist-up embroidered vest, featuring a distinctive collar, held on with lacing, is the next layer above the tunics. It features decorative ties and snaps to allow the actor to get into the piece quickly. This piece is labeled “Ujio Stunt Dbl.”
Tabi (Shoes and socks) – The socks are made from leather, with a distinctive double-toe feature. Above them are the straw soles that tie around the ankle. These are labeled “Ujio hero.” *note that in the photographs of the full costume, the shoes seen are generic Samurai shoes from the same film. It was necessary to drill a hole in the sole of the shoes to allow the figure to stand on a mannequin base. The original Ujio shoes were not modified, a second pair of background shoes was. This pair of background shoes will also be included.
Haidate (thigh guard) – The thigh guard feature real metal chainmail and cast metal decorative pieces. The chain mail is attached to multiple layers of decorative fabrics. The piece is labeled “Ujio Dbl”, and features a tie at the waist.
Kote (sleeve armor) with Tekko (hand guard) – The sleeve armor is similar in construction to the thigh guard, with real chain mail and metal plates over over multiple layers of decorative fabrics. The two sleeve armors are attached together with elastic at the back, and feature forearm lacing that allow the actor to tie them tightly to his arms. The hand guards sit over the original black leather gloves.
Following these undergarments, the “hard” armor components go on:
Suneate (greaves) – The greaves are constructed of plastic plates over multiple layers of decorative and embroidered fabric. They feature decorative ties at the top and bottom, and are labeled “Ujio L Rider” and “Ujio.”
Do (cuirass or body armor) with attached Kusazuri (tassets) and Watagami (shoulder straps) – The body armor is comprised of separate chest and back plate, both featuring attached tassets.
The chest armor featuring individually cast and attached plastic “Scales” and the distinctive golden circle that is unique to the Ujio character. The tassets feature real chain mail, and again individually cast and attached scales. They are finished with synthetic horse hair on the edges, and are lined with decorative fabrics on the underside. The chest armor also features decorative ties to allow it to attach to the shoulder straps at the top, and the back armor at the sides.
The interior of the chest armor is lined with black leather and shows evidence of modification and repair on set. The chest armor can be screen matched to shots during the final battle where Ujio is hit with bullets, thus damaging the chest. The chest armor also features dried blood on the fabric sides, indicating that it was used for the bullet hit shots and then repaired for use in other scenes.
The back armor is a stunt version, with the scales on the back cast in one section rather than being individual. The chain mail on the tassets is cast in rubber rather than being true chain mail, and they feature the same individually attached scales as the chest armor. When Ujio is thrown from his horse in the film, the back armor appears to be a stunt version with stunt tassets.
The shoulder straps are permanently attached to the back armor with decorative blue rope, and feature gold grommets and detailing. Both the chest and back armor are edges with decorative rope trims.
Sode (shoulder armor) – The shoulder armor is created with the same “scaled” appearance as the body armor, and attaches to the shoulder straps by decorative loops. The shoulder armor features Ujio’s distinctive golden circle, and are finished with faux horse hair on the edge. The underside is lined with a decorative burgundy fabric, and they feature decorative ties that hold them securely to the actor’s arm. Each side of the shoulder armor is labeled “Ujio riding.”
Obi (belt) – The belt is a simple fabric wrap that goes around the waist to hold the swords in place.
Kabuto (helmet) with Mempo (chin guard) – Custom made from injection-molded plastic, with an integral Shikoro (nape guard), and a fabric liner held in by Velcro. The horns are made from a rigid, lightweight casting material and are separate pieces and attached by screws on the inside. The helmet is not labeled. A rope attached to the interior of the helmet holds the chin guard in place. The chin guard is also made from injection-molded plastic and is leather lined, and labeled “Ujio Dbl”. The attached chainmail chinguard is backed with a beautifully embroidered fabric, and has a sewn-on label that reads “Ujio Hero 2.” The “Dbl” reference in this instance does not mean a double for the character, but rather a Double to Ujio’s first hero costume.
Katana (long sword) and Wakisashi (side arm or short sword) – The swords were also custom created for the film by WETA, and are unique to the Ujio character. The Katana features a custom handguard only seen on Ujio’s sword, and is cast in a dense resin with a metallic painted blade. This sword was used for fighting sequences in the film. The sword holder with the Katana was not used by Ujio, it is from a background samurai and is intended only to complete the look of the costume.
The Wakisashi is also styled uniquely for the Ujio character. It features an aluminum blade, and a custom holder that is original and unique to Ujio.