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Swords, Cutting and Military History

Lectures on the Samurai: In War and Culture

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With thanks to the folk at, here are three lectures on the dichotomy between warfare and esthetic culture in the life of the samurai


The Samurai in Myth, History and Art
kabuki_videos_minLecturer Maribeth Graybill, Ph.D., The Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Curator of Asian Art at the Portland Art Museum, discusses the often contradictory images of the samurai in history, drama, and artworks created for the elite during Japan’s Edo period (1615-1868).  Many of the common images we hold of  samurai today, including their portrayals in modern movies, are actually based on how they were portrayed to the public in books, plays and artwork from the Edo period;  for example, the stereotypical woodblock print image of a grimacing, posing warrior is in reality a stock image used for advertising kabuki  plays on posters and in storybook, based on the static poses which were part of the kabuki tradition.

In this lecture Dr. Graybill attempts to separate the mythology from the men.




Japanese Armor from the Inside Out
Thom Richardson, Ph.D., FSA, Keeper of Armour and Oriental Collections, Royal Armouries, Leeds, discusses the unique features of the armor in the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection in this lecture presented October 27, 2013, at the Portland Art Museum.




Curriculum for the Samurai: Conflicted World of Medieval Japanese Warriors
In this video, Yoshiaki Shimizu, Ph.D., Frederick Marquand Professor of Art and Archaeology, Emeritus, Princeton University, and Guest Scholar, Getty Research Institute, examine the often contradictory set of skills a samurai of  the Edo period was expected to hold, where a samurai worth the name must be a skilled warrior, an educated scholar and a practitioner of the fine arts (painting, poetry, the tea ceremony, etc.).

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