Entertainment » Fine Arts

Lords of the Samurai at the Asian Art Museum

by Robert Taylor
Thursday Jun 25, 2009

San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum knows where we get our ideas about samurai-from movies such as Akira Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai, or maybe from Japanese graphic novels, or even comically violent sketches by actors like John Belushi.

"They were fearless fighters skilled in combat-from bows and arrows to spears and swords, the samurai were awesome dudes," declares the program guide to the museum’s big new exhibit, with rare lowbrow humor.

Awesome is right

"Although samurai were pretty terrifying, they had a softer side that appreciated the finer things in life like art, poetry and tea," the museum staff points out.

And that’s the message of Lords of the Samurai," the stunning exhibit from Japan running through Sept. 20. When samurai warriors weren’t battling to defend the emperor in feudal times, they were writing poetry, supervising peony gardens, painting calligraphy and conducting tea ceremonies. Awesome is right.

"Is this what you expected?" asked curator Yoko Woodson as she led visitors through the introductory gallery displaying the first of more than 160 objects in the exhibit.


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