"Lords of the Samurai" Exhibit in San Francisco

Yesterday, R and I braved the San Francisco Gay Pride weekend crowds (in a car even!) to visit the “Lords of the Samurai” exhibit at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum. This was held in the same exhibit area as the exhibit on Bhutan a few months ago.

Once again, no photography was allowed (which is a shame, really). The exhibit was a collection of artifacts largely drawn from the Hosokawa family, who were feudal lords throughout the Shogunate (and before) and who survive to this day, its current head having been the Prime Minister of Japan. The artifacts are, for the most part, housed in the Eisei-Bunko Museum in Japan.

While the arrays of armor and swords were impressive, as were the scroll paintings of the Hosokawa lords, I was most impressed by two, smaller, sets of things. One was several paintings by Hakuin, the famous Zen master. Two of special note were a painting of an Enso by him and another of Bodhidharma, who brought Zen to China.

fiverings The other set of items of interest were those associated with Miyamoto Musashi. There was a collection of paintings, including a full set of screens, attributed to him. There was also a pair of Bokken carved by him for training in his sword style. These had been kept by a family of (historical) retainers of the Hosokawa family for the last 360 or more years. The final item was a manuscript copy of Musashi’s “Book of Five Rings” from shortly after his death, the original manuscript having been lost. I’ve been keenly interested and drawn to Musashi since my childhood exposure to Kurosawa films and read a (bad) translation of the “Book of Five Rings” while in high school. Interest in him has contributed, in part, to my love of things Japanese and of Zen.

I found the opportunity to see the Hakuin and Musashi works to be a real treat and surprise, since I had no idea that they were included in the exhibit. All in all, it was time well spent.