Experience the world of Samurai at the exhibition Samurai: the Art of War
Olga Slobodkina-von Bromssen
Samurai: the Art of War is the name of an exhibition and a unique interactive project which has opened in Moscow. It presents the culture of the Japanese samurai: rich collections of ancient Japanese arms and armour, clothes and everyday items which will transport the viewer to medieval Japan.
The project’s priority is to show the world through the eyes of the Samurai, a daring warrior, a refined poet and an inspired artist who is always ready to sacrifice his life for lofty ideals. The basis for this contemplation is the Busido (the Warrior’s Way), a philosophy of harmony between honest-to-God faith, absolute devotion, self-sacrifice, sincerity and the ability to appreciate beauty in all its manifestations.
Apart from showing items of the material culture, the project includes tea ceremonies, master classes by sword masters, films, master classes in ikebana, origami, calligraphy and many parts aspects of ancient Japanese culture.
Samurai: the Art of War is the first exhibition in Russia using 3-D technologies. The display presents a 3-D panorama of The Battle at Sekigakhara, a battle in 1600 in which 170,000 warriors took part. The battle has been recaptured in the finest detail.
The exhibition occupies 1,400 square metres of the restored architectural monument Meshaninovo Podvorye. It is divided into thematic zones, which allow guests to travel the way of a warrior in the direct sense of the word and observe all the stages of his life. Visitors can go from a medieval castle to a Buddhist Temple, wander Kyoto city districts and be guests in a noble samurai’s house.
“Our exhibition is not an object, but an experience,” says one of the project’s creators, Georgy Aistov. “It presupposes total immersion: the guest becomes a participant. You can find yourself in the middle of a 17th century battlefield in 3-D and then take part in a tea ceremony performed in the ancient traditions. The choice is yours!”
History places the samurai in such an exalted position that one can imagine that they have existed as long as Japan itself. However, samurai began to form itself only in the 10th century A.D. The word samurai derives from the verb saburau, which means “to serve a person of a higher rank.” In the 10th- 12th centuries, during period of civil war, the samurai class was established, and the foundations of the samurai moral code took shape.
The moral image of a samurai was defined by the most important features of his individuality: fidelity, generosity, duty and honour. Apart from his professional qualities, a samurai needed to display mercy, compassion, forgiveness and sympathy. The key quality in the Busido code is duty. A clear demarcation is made between one’s own feelings and duty. Thus, we have the tradition of seppuku or hara-kiri, unthinkable in the West.
Every contemporary Japanese carries history around with him or her. One cannot understand contemporary Japan without its past. The past in Japan coexists with the present and sometimes even has priority.
One must pay tribute to the project itself. The organisers have tried to show various aspects of the life of samurai in the atmosphere of medieval Japan by using all forms of technology starting with traditional exhibition technology, up to the newest 3-D techniques. The display really makes one want to come back for more.
The exhibition Samurai: the Art of War is open until February 28 at the Vetoshny Art Centre (former Meshaninovo Podvorye behind GUM).
Vetoshny Pereulok 13.
Until February 28