Jidai: Timeless Works of Samurai Art looks at the weaponry and armor of the samurai—Japan’s elite warrior class. Assembled from collections in the greater Los Angeles area, Jidai features rare and historically significant samurai artifacts dating as far back as the Kamakura Period (AD 1185–1333) in Japan. The display also examines ways this facet of Japanese culture has been preserved, embraced, and shared in America.
The swords, armor, and other traditional tools and vestments of the samurai have been prized and collected for centuries in Japan. This was continued in the United States by Japanese immigrants and other collectors. At the end of World War II, an estimated three million swords left Japan in the hands of veterans. Sword collecting soon became highly popular in the Japanese American community. In the 1960s, a group of Nikkei enthusiasts in Los Angeles established Nihon Token Hozon Kai, the first club in America dedicated to the study, celebration, and preservation of the Japanese sword. Numerous organizations subsequently emerged throughout the country, connecting and educating new generations of samurai artifact enthusiasts.
Jidai contains many notable highlights, including a tsuba (sword guard) made by Japan’s most famous swordsman, the legendary Musashi Miyamoto. One very special piece was made in the modern era: a tanto (dagger) secretly forged at Manzanar concentration camp by “Kyuhan” Kageyama, a Japanese American who was incarcerated there during World War II. This unique tanto is the only verified artifact of its kind known to exist, and has never before been displayed in a museum. Jidai also features blades bearing test-cut inscriptions attesting to their sharpness; beautiful and elaborate sword fittings and mountings; matchlock firearms; and examples of the samurai’s iconic armor.
Jidai is a special display curated by Darin S. Furukawa, an artist, educator, and samurai arts specialist, and Michael Yamasaki, founder of Japanese sword dealer tetsugendo.com and the only non-Japanese national to win the All Japan Sword Appraisal Championship. Artifacts are drawn from the collections of Frankie Banali, Cyrus Chan, Darin S. Furukawa, C. Granick, Terry Hara, M. Kaufman, the Museum of Global Antiquities (MOGA), tetsugendo.com, and G. Yoshino.
Learn more about the display and the curators on Discover Nikkei: