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Art

Weapons, Treasure, History: “Swords of Kyoto” Exhibition Highlights “Master Craftsmanship from an Elegant Culture.”

2018.10.31

Detail from Shinnyo-do Engi (The Origin of Shinnyo-do Hall), scroll 2. Important Cultural Property. Shinshogorakuji Temple, Kyoto

At the end of the Heian period (794–1185), when the culture of the nobility gave way to the rising warrior class, a swordsmith known as Munechika Sanjo founded the Yamashiro school of smithing in Kyoto, setting in motion a story that would still be going strong centuries later. Now a fascinating museum exhibition sheds new light on Kyoto sword culture and its links to politics, history, and everyday life in the old capital.

Swords of Kyoto: Master Craftsmanship from an Elegant Culture” will run at the Kyoto National Museum until November 25, 2018. It will be the first major exhibition dedicated to swords in the museum’s 120-year history, featuring virtually all of the the Yamashiro-school swords forged in and around Kyoto that are now designated national treasures. One exhibit that has captured the public attention is a sword on loan from the Kyushu National Museum, inscribed “Kyushu, Higo Dodanuki Kozukenosuke,” and originally donated by Major League baseball player Sadaharu Oh.

    

Left: Sword inscribed “Kyushu, Higo Dodanuki Kozukenosuke,” once owned by Sadaharu Oh. Kyushu National Museum. Middle: Sword inscribed “Kiku gosaku.” Important Cultural Property. Kyoto National Museum. Right: Kiba musha zo (Mounted warrior). Important Cultural Property. Kyoto National Museum.

Swords are a symbol of military strength, but they have long been prized by nobles and religious leaders as treasure that symbolizes political and financial power as well. A well-sharpened katana is admired as a work of art, but also has a unique place in Japanese history.

This exhibition shows the influence of the swords created in Kyoto in particular on the nation’s history and culture from many perspectives. Picture scrolls, illustrated screens, and other materials reveal how the warriors, nobles, and townsfolk of the capital lived, their awe of swords, and relations between swordsmiths and other residents. Other notable items at the exhibit include a sword inscribed “Kiku gosaku” (“Made by the Chrysanthemum Hand”) said to have been made by the Retired Emperor Go-Toba, and Jakuchu Ito’s picture Fushimi ningyo zu (Fushimi dolls). Taken as a whole, the collection offers a comprehensive picture of the highly refined art of swordmaking in Kyoto and the effect its products had on the city and its people.

“Swords of Kyoto” is sure to fascinate anyone with an interest in Japanese traditional culture, art, or history. Be sure to drop by the Kyoto National Museum to see this first-ever collection if you can!

 

◆ Swords of Kyoto: Master Craftsmanship from an Elegant CultureDates: September 29 to November 25, 2018
Closed: Mondays
Venue: Kyoto National Museum
   527 Chaya-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto
Admission fees:

    • Adult: 1,500 JPY (1,300 JPY)
    • University student: 1,200 JPY (1,000 JPY)
    • High school student: 700 JPY (500 JPY)

(Prices in parentheses are for tickets sold in advance or groups of 20 or more)

URL: https://katana2018.jp/ (in Japanese)