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Art in the Collection of Samurai

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Yassir Abduljalil

Professor Joan Mortensen


Art in The Collection of Samurai

In this paper, I will be analyzing five different pieces that I found very amusing at The Samurai Collection Museum. The five pieces I will be analyzing will be a Palanquin, Tachi sword, Naginata, Nimaido (gosuku) armor, and Yukinoshitado chest armor. The museum with all of its' pieces presented, the essence of what it meant to be a Samurai. Each exhibit has its's own story and value, and in this essay, I will discuss some of the most important pieces that I found.


Norimonos were so called, "human-powered palanquins" (A history of...) that were used for the transportation of people of the warrior class and the nobleman. This creation was used during the Edo period in Japan in the 19th century. In essence the passenger would get inside the small compartment and at each end of the palanquin, there would be a strong man who is capable of bearing the weight as he will be lifting the, long, outstretched arms of the palanquin. The Norimono at the museum was decorated with "gold lacquer pine branches and plum blossoms." (Norimono, palanquin) The metal fittings showed the high status of the people using this transportation. And the painted plants on the wood, were normally unchanged during the winter season, thus the plants symbolized resilience and perseverance. The crest of the Tokugawa clan is also clearly seen on the lacquered wood.  The Tokugawa clan is a powerful daimyo family of Japan.

This transportation device was very significant during the period of the Samurai. It held high value and showed the status of the warrior class. Norimonos are seen in many films that depict the lives of the people living during the Edo period. For example, that use of this transportation was shown in some scenes from the film, "Memories of a Geisha."  It depicted how the successful geishas was of higher class as they were being transported by four man who were at each end of the palanquin, carrying them to their festivals.

Tachi (sword)

Japanese blades are considered the finest in the world for their delicate precsion and power. They hold the highest value for a samurai, as it is the weapon that he owes his life to. The technique used to make these swords were very special as incorporated the use of different elements that each brought some aspect to the sword. The end of this sword is made up of cloisonne enamel, known as shippo in Japanese. The material was created by mixing glass with various metallic oxides. (Tachi) The sword was made during the Koto period during the 16th century. The techniques to use this sword were mastered by the Samuria and it showed how important it was to him as a man that lived by the Code of Bushido.

Tachi swords are seen in some of the films that depict the stories of samurias. In the film Hero, the audience can notice that unlike how traditionally the samurai wears the katana; a smaller blade, the tachi was worn hung from the belt with the cutting-edge pointing downwards. The tachi swords seen, are used mostly used by the cavalry.  


These weapons displayed in the museum presented a different look at the blades that are normally used by the samurai. They are made to look like pole arms that have a curved blade stretching out from the 'pole'. It is used for fighting by samurai while on horseback and even on foot. This weapon played a huge role in Japanese military history from "the 12th century until the mid 1800's."(Naginata) From various source, it has been said that some women trained with these weapons while their man were away, so they can defend their homes and families. This weapon was created in the 13th century. The smith of one of the Naginatas displayed was blade known as "Jitsu" and he was the father of Yasuyoshi, who founded the school of craftsmen during that time.

This weapon has developed miraculously through the ages. There is a sport centered on the art of the techniques used to fight with the Naginata. This sport is played mostly by women who compete at the collegiate level. It is defined as "ancient form of individual warfare,"(Garcia, Irene). This sport, often called "the new naginata," is governed by the All Japan Naginata Federation (AJNF). During the Tokugawa period (1603–1868), the naginata was transformed into a symbol of status for female samuria. It became known to be a feminine art to defend themselves and their families using this weapon.

Nimaido Gusoku Armor

This armor, displayed, is very ornate and has several features that make it very unique. Beginning with the sleeves, one can see there are clouds and dragons that intertwine down the length of the sleeves. (Nimaido gusoku armor) Next to the iron lookalike helmet, rests a double-edged sword. The next delicate feature about this armor is the chest are where it can be seen that there are two plates of iron present with a dragon decorated on the top plate. From the waist down, the armor continues to have the iron plates and the borders that are outlines with red-laqcuer. A symbol called a manji is carved at the top center of the chest armor. By research, I have come to find that this symbol was used by "six prominent samurai families." 'The swastika' symbol holds significance to religion and views. It stands for "universal harmony and cosmic order." (Nimaido gusoku armor) This armor was made by Hidetsuna in the Early Edo period during the 17th century and it symbolizes important status and high nobility. It would be worn during fighting whether the Samurai was on foot or on a horse.



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