Seven hundred years of Japanese history and tradition goes on display when the "Samurai: The Way of the Warrior" exhibit opens at the Houston Museum of Natural Science on Friday. Composed of pieces from one of the most important private Samurai collections outside of Japan, "Warrior" includes rare and elegant examples of the samurai's complex armor and advanced weaponry, along with cavalry equipment and personal items. "The swords that they carried were exquisite works of art and incredibly technologically advanced," says Dr. David Temple, an anthropological curator for the museum. "The elaborate armor that they wore, the weaponry that they used, all of that communicated not only the traditions of the samurai but also the power of [the Japanese state they served]."
As heavy and bulky as some of the armor is, it would seem the samurai would find it difficult to walk, much less fight. Temple tells us much of what's on display is ceremonial regalia, rather than everyday outfitting. "You didn't use all of these [items] on the battlefield, but they were certainly adapted from the battlefield. The swords seen in the exhibit, for example, were extremely effective weapons, but they were more often used in ceremonial [functions] or as badges of honor for the elite. Bows would certainly be used more often on the battlefield."
The exhibit also includes ink wells, correspondence boxes and writing tools "You think, samurais writing? But it made perfect sense. In order to administer the government, they had to write decrees and keep records. They were administrating an empire and writing was important."
See "Samurai: The Way of the Warrior" 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Through September 7, 2015. 5555 Hermann Park Drive. For information, call 713‑639‑4629 or visit hmns.org. $25.
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