What: Great North Museum
Where: Next to Newcastle University (Directions)
Open: Mon to Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 1pm-5pm
Samurai are one of the most iconic images of Japan, even today they still feature prominently in Japanese popular culture, although Samurai in their traditional forms disappeared many years ago. That being said it’s not exactly every day that you get to see a samurai in Newcastle…unless you visit the Great North museum!
Up on the second floor of the museum, tucked away in the world cultures section you can find a wonderful display of Samurai armor and weaponry. The display isn’t huge but Samurai armour is somewhat of a rarity in toon after all! The display is well worth checking out, as it the rest of the museum if you’re passing by as it’s a really great place to wonder around for an hour or two. There is also a model of a Japanese spider crab on the ground floor, and he’s a good looking chap.
Samurai (侍) were the military nobility of pre-industrial Japan, the history of the samurai is long and convoluted, nobody can say for sure who or where the first samurai was exactly. The first recorded use of the word Samurai was in the 12th century but these were by no means the first of their kind. Samurai served their masters, the daimyo (大名), the land owners of Japan and lived by a strict set of rules known as Bushido (武士道) a set of moral principles which the samurai were required to observe. To be a samurai was to be a member of an elite class, even more so in 1603 when Tokugawa Ieyaso became Shogun of Japan and banned anyone who was not a Samurai from carrying a sword, making a Samurai instantly recognisable. The end of the Samurai came about when the Menji reforms of the late 19th century abolished the Samurai class, many the former Samurai joined the newly formed national army. The image of the samurai is still a major cultural factor in Japan, and in representing Japan, to this day.
So what are you waiting for? Visit your local samurai today!
Want more samurai? Check out these recommended films! (All available in HMV or at Amazon UK)
For those who want Hollywood: The Last Samurai
For those interested and with time: Shogun (9hour Mini Series)
For those who want classic Japanese: The Kurosawa Samurai Collection
For those who want modern Japanese: 13 Assassins
Since seeing our post on the armor in the museum The Great North Museum kindly tweeted out some lovely photos of some of the other armor and swords that they have in their store room, hidden away from public view, just for us!