LoTR vibes at Samurai exhibit
- I got unexpectedly strong LoTR vibes at the Metropolitan Museum's exhibit "Art of the Samurai".
The exhibition is mostly of Japanese swords (the web site is somewhat unrepresentative in that regard). What's Tolkienish about it is that each sword is labelled with a history of the smith, and the smith's family, and who it was made for, and who it was given to --- altogether evocative of a missing Appendix G with this kind of information for Aiglos, Narsil, Sting etc. The interspersed Japanese is also reminiscent of the way Tolkien uses Elvish. E.g.
Blade for a Tachi (Slung Sword), known as "Dai Hannya Nagamitsu"
Kamakura period, 13th century
Steel; L. 29 in. (73.6 cm)
Tokyo National Museum
This is a characteristic sword by Nagamitsu, a second-generation
smith of the Osafune school and the son of Mitsutada, the school's
founder. Dated blades by Nagamitsu range from 1274 to 1303. This
sword is typical of his earlier works, mixing gunome (compact
waves) with chÅji (clove shapes) and some kawazuko chÅji
(tadpole-shaped chÅji) in what is, overall, an exceptionally
grand hamon (tempering pattern). The sword is called "Dai Hannya"
because in the Muromachi period it was valued at 600 kan (equal
to about 2,250 kilograms of silver), and there are 600 volumes
(also, coincidentally, called kan) of the Dai Hannya Sutra (Heart
Esteemed as being meibutsu, or a "famous piece," it was given by
Ashikaga Yoshiteru (r. 1545â"65) to Miyoshi Nagayoshi, a powerful
daimyo. Later Oda Nobunaga gave it to Tokugawa Ieyasu to honor his
success at the Battle of Anegawa (July 30, 1570). Ieyasu then gave
it to Okudaira Nobumasa as a reward for his services in the Battle
of Nagashino (June 29, 1575), and he in turn passed it to his son
Matsudaira Masaaki, in whose family it was ultimately passed down.
The sword is thus especially valuable as a well-documented example
of a blade being exchanged among military houses as an expression
The swords are also in absolutely pristine shape and decorated, very
much like the description in "Fog on the Barrow-Downs"
".. a dagger, long, leaf-shaped, and keen, of marvellous
workmanship, damasked with serpent forms red and gold ... the
blades seems untouched by time, unrusted, sharp, glittering in the
Also eerie, in a way somewhere between Tolkien and Peter Jackson, are some very weird helmets from 17th-18th c. Japan, decorated with sculpted horns, large praying mantises etc. (there are some pictures on the web site).
All in all, a pretty amazing exhibition.