-Peacekeeping Contributors in Edo Period*
14 September – 4 November 2019
Without a doubt, “samurai” is one of the most prevalent clichés used to imagine Japan.
What the word actually means, however, may vary greatly from one person to another. It may indicate armoured warriors, from elite warlords to low-class soldiers, knight-like swordsman and crime avengers, villains and wandering ronin.
Or it can be the embodiment of idealized masculinity, of the virtue of loyalty and the Way of the samurai. Such images have been crystalized by books on the subject, as well as Japanese and Hollywood movies.
But what were they really during the Edo period, from 1603 to 1867, when Japan’s internal war period had been forgone, with the last big battle fought in 1615? Their warrior status was made redundant in the “Pax Tokugawa”.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the town of Edo (present-day Tokyo) under the Tokugawa shogunate became the largest city in the world, with the largest population of samurai living in the country.
This show, bringing together a number of precious objects, pictures, and photos, will elucidate the life and profession of the samurai in and around the town of Edo during the Tokugawa period.
*Reproduction of images in this article is strictly prohibited.
Highlights of the “Samurai” Exhibition
◆Samurai as officials
◆Buke-yashiki or samurai mansions
The “sankin kotai” system introduced by the Tokugawa shogunate required the daimyo or feudal lords to travel to Edo and live there every other year.
This necessitated to have their satellite residences called “buke-yashiki” (or warrior lords’ mansions) in the capital town and bring with them subordinate samurai and servants, while leaving their family behind.
◆Practice using bamboo swords and protective gear became common during the Edo period
◆Samurai as fire fighters
The town of Edo was plagued by numerous fires. Disaster response was one of the most important missions of samurai.
Portrait, taken in New York, of Nonomura Tadazane, a member of the shogunate’s delegation to America
Nonomura’s personal belongings
Toyama Kinshiro Kagemoto, alias “Toyama-no-kin-san”, a popular TV character of the samurai drama entitled the same
◆ Samurai and guns
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