Archive for 'Samurai'

There are no guilty pleasures

I got into Project Runway when I caught the mother of all colds last year.  Cable television, in its infinite wisdom, was catching up late-to-the-gamers with an entire season’s worth of shows in a single day and me, being soft in the head, fell hard.  While I don’t stay home to watch it nowadays, I still like to keep an eye on the action, especially given that SF-based Jay Nicholas Sario is in the running this season.
Why am I writing about this on our blog?  Because Sario’s ten fashion week looks were based on last Summer’s Lords of the Samurai exhibition.  Since this combines both work and pleasure, I’m calling for an emergency meeting at my house Thursday night.  Who’s with me?

Peter Baggaley’s samurai-inspired Halloween costume

peter baggeley samurai costume

The following is a guest post by Peter Baggaley. Thanks, Peter!


The samurai armor pictured is a Halloween costume that I made using paper, string, and other household materials. Most high school students do not go trick-or-treating for Halloween. For the past few years, I have been a proud exception to this rule. My costumes are all handmade and reflect a historical warrior idea, in chronological order. First, I was a hoplite, a Greek heavy infantryman from the Bronze Age. I then progressed to a Roman centurion, followed by a Viking/barbarian. As I entered high school, I entered the middle ages in the guise of a crusader. Last year, I made the slight leap to Renaissance period infantry.

For this year’s costume, I was faced with a dilemma.
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Goodbye Samurai

It’s time to send-off another wonderful exhibition. For all of us, the fourteen week run of Lords of the Samurai has felt remarkably short. Compared to the years of work that go into organizing an exhibition of this scale, and the centuries of history represented by the works within, these few weeks are but an instant.


Objects wait for a final condition check before packing

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Dewa mata atode*

Ten to ten on an unusually cool morning, autumn nearly making itself known but for yesterday’s heat.  A strange charge in the empty courts of the museum, truly negative space.

Always a strange feeling–we’ve spent so much time together, and soon it will be time to say goodbye.

Memory, that persistent, unfailing shadow.  Not nostalgia, no.

We’ll remember the good times, the first glimpse of new-old treasure.

But to be honest, I’m going to be really happy that I don’t have to keep turning over the Japanese books.  For the record, in Japan, books start from the other side.

If it has the price on it and a barcode and it looks like the back of the book, it’s the back of the book.

Maybe I should have mentioned this at the beginning of the exhibition.

Yes, better luck next time on that.  We’re open, time to go upstairs.  If I get a chance to leave the building for lunch, expect a picture of some epic queue.

*ではまた後で。= “see you later.”

Write a Haiku

haikuIn an effort to balance both sides of samurai—the skilled fighter vs. the refined artist—I tipped the scales on the side of the stereotypical samurai, and in the process sparked a lively, and at times heated, dialogue about the glorification of war through the creation of art activities. Although the previous projects posted through the blog focus on the tools used by the samurai class in ceremonies as well as in combat, I stand by them as a way to bring history to life and engage kids in an exploration of Japanese art, culture and history, and provide a launching point for a larger, more thoughtful discussion about war and violence (and pacifism, the anti-war movement and critical thinking)…

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Samurai Swords

family project: make your own samurai swordPeople are serious about their swords. I was trying to show the swords and sword guards (tsuba) on view in Hambrecht to a friend the other day, but couldn’t quite reach the cases housing these finely crafted beauties. A group of hungry-eyed gentlemen hovered over them like vultures waiting for lunch—mouths open, staring. Although I tried, even my most effective derby moves weren’t enough to get the two of us close enough to see the displays. We ended up looking at the campaign coat until the men moved on to the next gallery and my friend and I were alone (at last) with the swords. 
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There goes the neighborhood (in a good way!)

The Asian Art Museum was at the NEW PEOPLE grand opening and first annual JPop Summit Festival this past Saturday in Japantown. Here’s one pic that describes the day:

NEW PEOPLE Grand Opening + JPop Summit Fest

NEW PEOPLE is the country’s first center dedicated exclusively to all things “Jpop” (as in Japanese popular culture, and not strictly Japanese pop music). Launched by the founder / CEO of VIZ Pictures and VIZ Media (manga and anime powerhouse), NEW PEOPLE houses a cinema, gallery, shop, food court (featuring local favorites Delica and Blue Bottle Coffee), boutiques specializing in subculture fashions (be it “Gothic Lolita” or the over-accessorized, rainbow palette of Harajuku).

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Hiroshima survivor visits Samurai show

On August 6, 1945, eight-year-old Takashi Tanemori was playing hide-and-seek with friends in Hiroshima when the atomic bomb fell less than one mile away.

The blast killed his parents, a brother, a sister, and other members of his family. Takashi, whose father was of samurai class, became an Oyanashigo—a street urchin, who survived by scrounging from garbage cans and refuse piles.
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The Other Samurai

When most people think of the Samurai they usually picture men. Well, my feminist side led me on a bit of a search and sure enough there were women Samurai, just as powerful as the men.

Samurai Armor

Emily's armorSamurai wore elaborate suits of armor to protect themselves in battle. Four distinct styles were worn—the showier, fancy armor generally saved for ceremonies –oyoroi and domaru-gusoku — and the two that were more often actually worn in battle, haramaki and tosei-gusoku (in case you haven’t already, you can see samurai armor on view at the museum through September 20). Armor was made of materials such as iron, bronze, metal, leather, lacquer and braided silk, and  constructed in pieces so the samurai could move easily when fighting their enemies. Among other pieces, samurai armor consisted of the breastplate (dō), which protected the samurai’s heart and guts, and the tassets (kusazuri), which protected the hips. Like the helmets samurai wore, breastplates were often decorated with elaborate designs that distinguished them from the other samurai, guardian figures that protected them and creepy imagery that frightened their opponents. Ever wondered what it’s like to wear samurai armor? Make your own and find out!