Home Samurai culture Japanese armor gifted to royalty survives 400 years

Japanese armor gifted to royalty survives 400 years


Francesca Levey, the Trust’s armor curator, added: “It’s much more complicated than European armour. The hairspray itself needs about 75-80% humidity.

The armor was gifted to James I in 1613 by Shogun Tokugawa Hidetada as part of negotiations between Japan and the British East India Company. The lacquer and steel panoply – and even its silk binding – has survived centuries on open display without controlled conditions.

It is one of four sets of samurai gear to be displayed at the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace in April, and restorers have taken up the slack in the wet British weather by providing humidified display cases for the pieces, Ms. Levey saying they are “sort of replicating that Japanese climate”.

Curators will also reproduce Japan’s etiquette in the display, with samurai swords gifted to Queen Victoria’s son Prince Alfred – the first British royal to visit Japan – to be displayed with their hilts to the left and the blades pointing upwards in the traditional Japanese style. .

Sharp blades present a new hazard for conservators

These blades, some made in the 14th century, are so expertly crafted that they remain razor-sharp compared to the duller medieval weapons often displayed on historic estates in the UK, presenting new dangers to conservationists.

Ms Peat said: “We had to be extremely careful with these blades, they are incredibly sharp. They cut brushes simply by being brushed.

A field marshal’s sword gifted to George V by Emperor Taishō’s ally after World War I – the only such blade to be sent outside of Japan – will also take its place in the exhibit.

A revamp of the Queen’s Gallery will see brightly painted rooms fitted with sleek black-and-white screens to give a “Japanese minimalism”, and legends in display cases will label objects in right-to-left order , rather than left to right, in a nod to the Japanese writing system.

Other items include woodcuts from Buckingham Palace and a ceramic vessel given to the Queen during a state visit in 1975, as the exhibition aims to chart the relationship between two royal households – the family Imperial Japan and the British Royal Family – over four -century period.

Curators hope that in addition to the normal crowd interested in ancient arts and treasures, the exhibition will also transition into younger media and attract new audiences.

Ms. Peat said, “We’re expecting a younger audience, because there’s this crossover of pop culture, whether it’s his manga, his anime or his movie, there’s a huge Japanese influence on popular culture.”