From the epic films of Kurosawa, to hyperbolic Hollywood action films, to kitschy cartoons (i.e. Samurai Pizza Cats???) the legend and lore of the samurai continues to permeate the pop cultural imagination. The Asian Art Museum's special exhibition, Lords of the Samurai, brings to light the history and traditions of the samurai and daimyo (provincial lords) and helps viewers to distinguish between historical fact and fiction while deepening our appreciation for Japanese culture.
(Pictured above: Haramaki-type armor, black leather lacing, red cord horizontal accent lacing (katadori) on shoulder protectors, worn by Hosokawa Narimori (1806–1861), Japan. Edo period (1615–1868), 19th century. Iron, leather, lacquer, silk, and gilt metal. Eisei-Bunko Museum, 4111. © Eisei Bunko, Japan.)This exhibition not only features beautifully maintained suits of armour, weaponry, and paintings of battle scenes, but also features art and handiwork produced by samurai. As described in the excerpt from Izawa Nagahide's writing, Instructions for Japanese Men, the ideal Japanese male leader was not only a disciplined warrior but also masters of cultural and spiritual endeavors. The beautifully crafted lacquer box set pictured above was created by Hosokawa Sansai, a member of the reputable Hosokawa warrior clan. One of the highlights of the exhibition include paintings and manuscripts by the legendary swordsman, Miyamoto Musashi.
A once in a lifetime opportunity, this exhibition features rarely-travelling, personal heirlooms of the Hosokawa family, whose lineage traces back hundreds of years and whose members have held positions as prominent military warriors, statesmen, and even the title of prime minister. The Eisei-Bunko museum in Tokyo as well as the family's former residence, Kumamoto Castle, currently house most of the Hosokawa family's collection. Three of the works in this collection have been named Important Art Objects, a title reserved for pieces of high historical and cultural significance. Because many of the pieces in this exhibition are priceless and fragile, the museum will rotate new pieces into the exhibition on August third. Arguably the most celebrated Japanese filmmaker of all time, Akira Kurosawa had a career that spanned from the Second World War to the early nineties and that stands as a monument of artistic, entertainment, and personal achievement. With the production of Seven Samurai (1954), the most popular and important Japanese film of its time, Kurosawa began a long and fruitful obsession with medieval Japan. Kurosawa pioneered widescreen cinematography in Japan, and his films inspired the “Spaghetti Western” genre in Italy. Kurosawa reinvigorated the samurai film genre in Japan and revitalized the American Western in the process.