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“Samurai” exhibition at Edo-Tokyo Museum


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  • Special Exhibition
    -Peacekeeping Contributors in Edo Period*

    14 September – 4 November 2019
    Edo-Tokyo Museum

    *original translation

    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”.

    Exposition « Samouraïs » à l’Edo-Tokyo Museum

    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

    特別展「士 サムライ」 江戸東京博物館


    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.

    特別展「士 サムライ」 江戸東京博物館

    「温古写真集」 霞ヶ関福岡藩黒田侯上屋敷表玄関

    ◆Practice using bamboo swords and protective gear became common during the Edo period

    特別展「士 サムライ」 江戸東京博物館

    「洋風日本風俗画帖」 ケイコ

    ◆Samurai as fire fighters

    The town of Edo was plagued by numerous fires. Disaster response was one of the most important missions of samurai.

    特別展「士 サムライ」 江戸東京博物館


    ◆Samurai’s faces

    Portrait, taken in New York, of Nonomura Tadazane, a member of the shogunate’s delegation to America

    特別展「士 サムライ」 江戸東京博物館

    野々村忠実肖像写真 於ニューヨーク

    Nonomura’s personal belongings

    特別展「士 サムライ」 江戸東京博物館

    野々村市之進(忠実)遺品 提金具付更紗小物入 一閑張文箱 矢立并筆 手鏡(袋付)
    丸型四段重印籠 棹秤

    Toyama Kinshiro Kagemoto, alias “Toyama-no-kin-san”, a popular TV character of the samurai drama entitled the same

    特別展「士 サムライ」 江戸東京博物館

    いすみ市指定有形文化財 遠山金四郎景元画像
    遠山講蔵 千葉県立中央博物館大多喜城分館提供

    ◆ Samurai and guns

    特別展「士 サムライ」 江戸東京博物館


    特別展「士 サムライ」 江戸東京博物館

    火縄式馬上銃 鉄砲玉入并鉄砲玉・口薬入

* The above is the information known at the time of publication and subject to change without prior notice.

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