Saturday, September 19, 2009

Lords Of The Samurai

We finally got round to visiting the Lords of The Samurai exhibition this weekend, still running at the Asian Art museum in San Francisco. Spread over three rooms and featuring some 160 artifacts, this is as much as anything a history of the Hosokawa family whose personal inventory of objects forms part of the Eisei-Bunko Hosokawa collection in Tokyo, the primary source for this exhibition.

Overall I'd rank is as "interesting" rather than "must see" largely because of its narrow focus and hence limited ability to address any one aspect of samurai history and culture thoroughly. Personally, I'd have liked to see more of a logical progression of artifacts through either a time line or else more of a grouping of objects around different aspects of samurai life. (I'd also ding them for less-than-perfect presentation of the swords in this display, especially the tachi that were poorly lit and shown edge down, making it hard to study the hamon properly.)

For me, the most interesting section featured items relating to Musashi, the legendary master of the two-sword fighting technique and the best known codifier of the samurai Bushido through his (originally scroll-based) "A book of 5 Rings".

However, don't rush round to see any of it until you check the date. Tomorrow is the last day, and that of course assumes you are reading this on Saturday 19th September! And just to heap even more disappointment upon you, photography is banned, hence the photo above is of another artifact from the permanent collection in the same museum and not even something Japanese in origin. Bummer.

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