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Sunday, June 21, 2009

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A nine-planet crest of a noble samurai family can be seen everywhere in the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco these days. A grandiose and spectacular show “Lords of the Samurai” jointly organized with the Eisei-Bunko Hosokawa Collection, Tokyo, opened last week honored by the presence of Hosokawa Morihiro, a former Prime-Minister of Japan, Chairman of the Eisei-Bunko Museum, and a descendant of a daimyo [big name] family of the highest-rank samurai. “My family lineage goes back uninterrupted for seven hundred years,” he said in his speech at the opening of the exhibition, “The first eight generations were deputy lords, and became daimyo – feudal lords and military generals.” Hosokawa family portraits, scrolls with poems and paintings, samurai armors, swards, formal attire, tea wear and household items presented at the show, were selected to emphasize the artistic pursuits of the lords. Skilled warriors, the samurai were always prepared to die on a battlefield, and valued every fleeting moment of life with its many gifts offered by art and culture. They adorned their weapons with elaborate designs, collected decorative art objects, learned music, calligraphy and the Way of Tea, and performed plays and dances during their gatherings. In the exhibition, among the 166 various objects, there are simple bamboo tea utensils, which sometimes served as rewards for fearless warriors. Such objects were valued for their natural beauty, perceived through contemplation and discussion during tea ceremonies among high rank samurai. Ceramic tea bowls and vases, created by Hosakawa Morihiro, are also presented in the show, taking their place among the family art treasures, produced and collected by his ancestors. The show was curated by Yoko Woodson, Curator of Japanese Art or the Asian Art Museum. Lords of the Samurai runs through September 20 at 200 Larkin Street, SF. Call 415-581-3500 or visit Images: 1. Tosei Gusoku-type armor. Japan, Edo period, 19th century. 2. Sake bottle and food box set in the shape of an eggplant. Japan, Edo period, 17th century.


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