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Suntory Museum of Art 60th Anniversary Exhibition

The Sword: The Soul of the Warrior

September 15 to October 31, 2021

*There will be an exhibition change during the course of exhibition.
*Download the list of changes in works on display

The list of changes in worksPDF

Chapter 1
Samurai in Paintings

Section 1:Battle Picture Scrolls and Paintings of War Chronicles


When we imagine warriors, we see them ready for battle. In The Zenkunen War and The Gosannen War, both picture scrolls from the Tokyo National Museum, and other depictions of battles from the middle ages, we see warriors, the group then gaining power and social influence, clad in full armor.

In paintings of the war chronicles, such as The Tale of the Heike, the warriors fight with swords, bows and arrows, and spears. These works include illustrations that display the sophisticated refinements made to improve swords’ performance in battle.


Section 2:Monogatari-e and Musha-e, Samurai in Action


These monogatari-e picture scrolls depict tales, monogatari, involving swords. In them, swords are depicted symbolically, along with the fierce warriors who wield them to exorcise evil spirits.

The Conquest of Shuten-dōji picture scroll in the Suntory Museum of Art collection is the work of the Muromachi-period painter Kanō Motonobu. In that tale of epic valor, Fujiwara no Yasumasa, Watanabe no Tsuna and the other three of the Four Guardian Kings are led into battle by the renowned warrior Minamoto no Yorimitsu (Raikō), wielding their swords to quell the demon Shuten-dōji. The series of scenes in this catalogue are intensely powerful images from that long epic. They are being shown for the first time since the picture scroll’s restoration after its designation as an Important Cultural Property.

In this section, images ranging from monogatari-e depicting tales of military actions in Japan’s middle ages to Edo period musha-e, ukiyo-e prints of warriors, allow us to explore the image of warriors and their swords.

tk_shutendoji.jpg
Conquest of Shuten-dōji (Important Cultural Property)
Paintings by Kanō Motonobu, calligraphy by Konoe Hisamichi, Jōhōji Kōjo, Shōren’in Sonchin
Volume 3 (detail), Muromachi period, dated 1522, Suntory Museum of Art
【To be shown over an entire period】

Chapter 2
Armor, Weaponry and Sword Fittings

Section 1:Changes in Armor and Weaponry


The cuirass and helmet, the typical forms of Japanese armor, have under-gone historic transformations over the centuries. The cuirass has evolved from the ō-yoroi scale-covered armor worn by warriors from ancient times through the Genpei War (1180-85) in the middle ages, through the haramaki armor-plated cuirass and dōmaru, breastplate, to the tōsei-gusoku or “modern” armor of the early modern period. Picture scrolls depicting famous battles, together with folding screens, let us confirm these changes.

As armor changed, so did swords, sword fittings and other gear. These implements were magnificently decorated using state-of-the-art textile, lacquer, and metalwork techniques designed to convey the status of those who wore the armor and wielded the swords. These items convey the spirit of those who lived in each age.


Section 2:Samurai Customs—Images depicting the everyday lives of the samurai


During the Warring States period and other stages in Japan’s long history, there were times when samurai were in combat from morning to night. Yet their lives also had a more human side. As can be seen, for example, in the Training and Stabling Horses folding screen (Taga Taisha), besides training horses and practicing martial arts and the way of the sword, samurai also engaged in other, more mundane activities, having fun playing board games or enjoying the world of tea. In the sunny expressions of the samurai depicted in these images, we see another side of samurai hearts, quite different from when they were engaged in battle.

In paintings of various occupations, of which many examples were created in the early Edo period, we see the homes and workshops of armourers, arrow makers, and specialists in making horse tack, plus blade sharpeners and sword-guard makers.

The exquisite craftsmanship demonstrated by these gorgeous early modern period sword accessories, sword guards, and fittings not only speaks of the samurai aesthetic. It also communicates the realities of those whose craftsmanship supported the Japanese sword culture and the samurai way of life.

tk_L.jpg
Training and Stabling Horses (Important Cultural Property)
Left screen of a pair of six-panel folding screens, Muromachi period,
16th century-Early 17th century, Taga Taisya
【To be shown between Oct. 6 and Oct. 31】

tk_R.jpg
Training and Stabling Horses (Important Cultural Property)
Right screen of a pair of six-panel folding screens, Muromachi period,
16th century-Early 17th century, Taga Taisya
【To be shown between Oct. 6 and Oct. 31】


Chapter 3
Prayers Spoken in Steel—Blades from Ancient Shrines and Temples

Section 1:The Power to Dispel Evil Spirits—Swords Cherished and Handed Down


The sword is not just a weapon with which the samurai engages in battle with his enemies. Military epics from the middle ages tell us that people have long believed that the sword also embodies the spiritual authority to exorcise demons and monsters. Even more than as weapons used in battle, swords were prized as prayers for protection and peace. In this section, we introduce swords donated as offerings to historic Shinto shrines and venerated Buddhist temples, primarily in Kyoto. Many of these swords not only bear inscriptions that tell us who made them but also give the names of the emperors, nobles, priests, or warriors whose offerings they were. In this section, we reflect upon the donors’ prayers embodied in these swords and the traditions associated with them.


Section 2:Samurai and Swords—The Warrior’s Love of Famous Blades


Many swords survive in today’s world. Among them, famous swords said to carried by the Warring States generals who shaped their times stand out with special brilliance. Here you will find the renowned Hizamaru (Daikakuji Temple), a sword treasured by generations of the Minamoto clan, the Yoshimoto Samonji (Kenkun Shrine), taken by Oda Nobunaga from Imagawa Yoshimoto after defeating him in battle at Okehazama, and the Honebami Tōshirō (Toyokuni Shrine), associated with the Toyotomi clan. The fame of these swords idolized by samurai is timeless. Please take a thoughtful look at these renowned swords, each of which has been preserved and handed down throughout their heirs’ checkered histories.

tk_usumidori.jpg
Long Sword (tachi) named [...]tada (Famous work: Hizamaru, Usumidori) (Important Cultural Property)
Kamakura period, 13th century, Daikaku-ji Temple, Kyoto
【To be shown over an entire period】
tk4web.jpg
Naginata (a weapon with a curved blade and a long shaft) Converted into a Long Sword (katana); No Inscription (Famous work: Honebami Tōshirō) (Important Cultural Property)
Kamakura period, 13th century, Toyokuni Shrine, Kyoto
【To be shown over an entire period】

Section 3:Festivals and Swords—Kyoto’s Gion Festival


The Suntory Museum of Art collection includes the Hie Sannō Festival and Gion Festival folding screens from the Muromachi period and the Gion Festival folding screen, which was originally a fusuma-e (sliding door painting) produced in early Edo. Particularly noteworthy in these lively festival scenes are the Hashibenkeiyama and Jōmyōyama floats associated with samurai, and especially the magnificent Naginata Hoko float. That float’s dramatic appearance celebrates the importance of naginata, which cast out evil spirits, in the Gion Festival. In this section, visitors can see blades that had been displayed during the Gion Festival and the exhibit of swords donated to Yasaka Shrine in the Gion district and observe the connection between the festival events and swords that cast out evil spirits.

*Unauthorized reproduction or use of texts or images from this site is prohibited.

2021 January

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2021 September

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2021 October

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2021 November

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2022 January

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2022 March

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2022 April

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2022 May

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2022 June

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2022 August

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2022 September

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2022 October

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2022 December

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