Nihon Zatsuroku
An Online Japanese Miscellany

= Tate =

  By Anthony J. Bryant

Tate were the Japanese equivalent to what we may consider pavises.

These large, free-standing shields served multiple purposes. One of them, of course, was defensive. They could be a useful cover from enemy archers or even harquebusiers. Another use was identification; although this was secondary, and merely consisted of leaving tate laying around in camp. Tate could also be used as makeshift tables when laid across two campstools. Many generals had laid their maps out on a tate so in use.

They appeared early, and their form and construction seems to have changed little or not at all between their introduction around 1150 and their end in the mid-nineteenth century.

Essentially, they were of wooden construction some three feet by six - approximately the same size as a tatami, although there were size variations - with a single hinged support pole in the back.

Tate were decorated on front with the mon of the lord commanding the army they were used in. There may be a single appearance of the crest in the centre, slightly above the middle, or there may be a pattern of two or three repetitions vertically or horizontally. Alternatively, horizontal bands either above or below - or even instead of - the mon may have been used. Any viewing of a historical drama such as Kagemusha, Shōgun and Ran should provide many ideas.

Making tate

Although real tate were made of wooden planks, I tend to favour the idea of plywood now as simpler and more stable.


  • ¾ inch plywood sheet, 3 x 6 feet
  • ¾ inch plywood sheet, 12 x 8 inches
  • 1 x 2, 14 feet
  • Two 2 x ¼ inch bolts
  • Two washers
Tate diagram


If you are using plywood for the face, the back supports will be cosmetic.

Refer to the illustration of a tate for details on how it should go together.

Cut the 1 x 2 into three lengths of 3 feet, one length of 1 foot, and 1 of 4 feet.

Make a T-Piece using the shortest piece as the cross and the longest as the body.

Put this aside for a moment.

One foot from the bottom and top, attach one of the 3-foot pieces horizontally. Attach the third 3-foot piece one foot below the one on top.

Now cut from the 12 x 8 inch plywood sheet two shapes as shown here and attach to the back as per the tate illustration above.

Lay the T-bar (support leg) on the back so that the top of the T fits inside the two semicircles. Trace around where the arms touch the circles, remove the T-bar, then drill two holes in the center of the marked squares. Replace the T-bar, and drill through the holes into the arm. Make sure that the holes in the semicircles are slightly larger than those in the T-bar. The idea is that the bolts should grip the T-bar and the washers should keep the bolts on the semicircles.

Insert bolts with washers, and tighten the thing down.

Now stain the tate and paint away.

You are finished.

  This page was last modified on: 10/30/2015

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