The Samurai Museum in Shinjuku fills the soul with Japanese history. Located in the Kabukicho district, this museum is a real treat for those wanting to learn about samurai. Outside of the building entrance is a full body replica armor. After crossing the threshold, you will see a set of real samurai armor greeting you. At the counter, you can opt to join a tour of the museum. The museum offers English tours at different times of the day depending on the availability of guides. Sometimes it will begin in 5 minutes while other times it can be 30 minutes before the next tour. Either way the tour will be very informative.
On the first floor, you can see original armor on display. Some have battle scars while others are in pristine condition. The oldest armor in their collection was made hundreds of years ago. When looking at the armor you can determine their rank based on the amount of parts. The higher rank officials had many layers of defense to protect them while foot soldiers had very little. The colors chosen to decorate the armor depends on the era it was from. For example, indigo blue was used for a time because it was a color that symbolized victory.
As you make your way up to the second it is good to know that you must remove your shoes before entering the exhibit rooms. There is an area for you place your shoes and the reason why they require this rule is because all the exhibit rooms have tatami mats. In order to minimize damage to the mats they ask visitors remove their shoes. Also, it is an important Japanese custom to follow especially when tatami is involved.
The exhibit rooms give great historical examples of samurai starting from the Kamakura Period. Back in that era the bow and arrow was an instrumental weapon for victory. Not only did samurai warriors wield swords, they also had the skill of archery. In another room, there were examples of different types of swords and weapons with explanations on their purpose in battle. There were spears, short swords, and a horse cutting sword on display. The samurai helmet or kabuto these warriors wore varied in design with many symbolic references to either Shintoism or Buddhism. In one room, you had the opportunity to try on a Showa Era helmet and mask. During the Sengoku Period or Warring States Period, matchlock weapons were introduced to Japan and widely replaced the use of archery. Different styles of matchlock are displayed in one room to show their different uses.
Samurai Helmets also known as kabuto
The last exhibit room shows the history that lead to the unification of Japan by focusing on key figures and battles. Replica armor of Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Ieyasu Tokugawa are on display. These Japanese warriors were the reason Japan came under one unified ruler. There are also informational displays on the Boshin war, which led to the Meiji Era, a rapid time of industrialization and westernization. Within that same room a show was put on demonstrating samurai sword techniques. Afterwards you can head to their photo booth area, which has different costumes and props available. When the experience was over, the trip to this museum was informative and fun. A definite recommendation for people who want to learn more about samurai.
Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi Armor