Past Exhibitions

Feature Exhibition: Legendary Blades: Meibutsu and Other Outstanding Japanese Swords
December 15, 2015 - February 21, 2016

The imperial capital of Kyoto has since ancient times been home to the workshops of countless master swordsmiths. Many of the most famous blades that they forged have survived through the centuries, appearing in various episodes throughout Japanese history.

This exhibition features some of the most renowned such swords in Japan, many of them counted among a small number of blades known as meibutsu (literally, "famed objects"), meaning the best of the best. Among those on view is the meibutsu katana blade shortened from a naginata known as Honebami Tōshirō (“Bone-Gnawing Tōshirō), which is owned by Toyokuni Shrine and has been designated as an Important Cultural Property. Its name comes from a story about when the wielder of this sword sliced through bone even though only pretending to cut his opponent. Also on view is the meibutsu katana named Yoshimoto Samonji (Important Cultural Property, owned by Kenkun Shrine), which was taken as a trophy by warlord Oda Nobunaga (1534–1582) after his critical victory at the 1560 Battle of Okehazama. Other highlights include the katana named Yoshiyuki (owned by the Kyoto National Museum), said to have been used by Sakamoto Ryōma (1835–1867), and other famous blades that bespeak dramatic histories. These swords allow us to delve back into Japan's rich and tumultuous history while viewing the extraordinary technology and craftsmanship of some of its finest smiths.

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