Strange bits of detail keep you up at night? No. Congratulations, you’re not an artist. I went to the Tokugawa Samurai exhibit. I saw this on a Kote, or armored sleeve. Extraordinary metalwork for the period then, it felt like I’ve saw it before. Not that middle aged male fantasy of taking a martial art, suddenly finding “myself.” Just, there was something there. Buddhism was introduced in Japan in the 600’s. Before that, it was Shinto which created temples and worshipped Gods directly. Much like Greece and just about everywhere else at the time. We went somewhere. Let’s, bring it back to this detail. Warriors, were the closest to death than anyone else so it would be natural to be very religious. To add something powerful to your armor.
Beyond, what the Mon, or what Americans might call a family crest. The placement of the Mon on the armor appears in places where if the last strike was a death blow. It would be the last symbol you saw. Does that describe the dragon/staff symbol? Maybe. Looking further though, the Ryujin was a dragon God. Most armor symbols do have a leaning towards gods or animals that were great fighters like the barbed wire tattoos that were popular for a time. It would not be a stretch to include the wearing of a champion jersey of a sports team. No. You’re not a champion but you’re invoking tradition and a sense of power to those that know what sport you’re talking about. Not me but, other people. Good for you.
Ok. So now we are at the Maedate, powerful symbols on the helmet or chest, in this piece its the sleeve. The Ryujin but, also the staff. In Ryujin Shinko or the dragon faith, it’s taboo to drop metal in the ocean because that’s where dragons live. The Ryujin, has an ocean castle but this is also similar to the Loch Ness monster. It’s just as old. Also cryptozoological. Near the silk road. You see, things can fit but don’t quite “fit.”
I wasn’t satisfied still. Until, I read the Chinese story of Ruyi Jingu Bang the name of the magical staff of Sun Wukong. It was iron and given to the Monkey King Sun Wukong after visiting the Dragon King Ao Guang. So. Iron and dragons, it fits better. When Sun Wukong uses it the ends turn gold. Bam! There it is. Only, it’s not a Japanese story its a Chinese story. The Japanese, were introduced to Buddhism, dragons, and even monkeys as myths by China. The story of Sun Wukong was in the book, Journey To The West which predates this armor by at least two hundred years. It is safer to say, that the spirit of the story of Sun Wukong could have been an influence toward this detail. The great thing about these little details, that’s where the stories are.