Concept of Exhibition:
"The Spirit of Budō: The History of Japan's Martial Arts" was planned and produced against a background of strong overseas interest in Japan's martial-arts culture. In this exhibition, we seek the understanding of viewers about the brief history of Japanese martial arts—from battlefield combat technique (bujutsu) to popular sports or physical exercise tempering body and spirit (budō).
This exhibition consists of two parts: in the first part, reproductions/originals of historical weapons actually used such as bows and arrows, suits of armor, helmets, and so on are shown, and the development and changes of Japanese martial arts from 8th century to 19th century are explained. Many types of ancient armor and weapons have not survived to the present, or are too fragile for international transport. That is why we decided to include reproductions, which would give the appearance of suits of armor and helmets at the time of original production even more vividly.
The second part deals with the reorganization of bujutsu to budō in the 19th and 20th centuries, and how the spirit of martial arts is still inherent in the daily life of Japanese people today. Nine budō associations are also introduced and the clothes and implements such as bamboo swords, protectors, bows and arrows, and so on, which are used by players and students in the present day, are also to be seen.
We hope that through the exhibition the viewers will become aware of not only the history of Japanese martial arts, but also of people's aesthetic awareness and creativity, and Japan's social history and the Japanese way of thinking from a new angle.
Venue: The Atrium, Faculty of Architecture and Design, Victoria University of Wellington, 139 Vivian Street
Opening Hours: 9:00am - 4:30pm, Monday to Friday
Duration: Tuesday 2 July 2019 - Friday 26 July 2019
Japan’s traditional martial arts, together with their techniques and the weapons that were actually used, have become so immensely popular overseas that they are often seen as representative images of Japan. This is perhaps true for two main reasons: 1) recognition of the aesthetic value of the weapons and equipment, which were produced with distinctive characteristics, and 2) understanding of the importance of the martial arts, not only as defensive arts, but also as physical exercise, which led to their popularity first as amateur sports and later even as professional-level matches.
In the visual field, we must not forget the films of Kurosawa Akira (1910-98), which, starting in the 1950s, greatly aroused an interest in Japanese historical dramas. As seen in television dramas and feature films made in the U.S., ranging from Shōgun (1980) to The Last Samurai (2003), it is fair to say that Japans warrior culture elicited great interest overseas because of the distinctive nature of the “samurai” and “ninja.” The wild exoticism of productions made abroad seemed to the Japanese to be grossly exaggerated and contrary to historical fact. Yet, on the other hand, sometimes such historical films and novels made the Japanese more aware of their own ancient history—of which most people knew next to nothing. Today, because of them, a great number of Japanese have an interest in the culture of traditional martial arts. Historical novels and films depicting Japan before its Westernization in the middle of the 19th century are now enjoying a boom among the Japanese, and they continue to create vivid images of ancient times.
We cannot ignore the great role that Japanese comics (manga) have played in touching off a worldwide boom in the martial arts. It should be noted that grand sumō tournaments began in the Edo period, and in postwar Japan several popular heroes have emerged from sports such as baseball, boxing, and professional wrestling, as well as the Olympic Games. This trend is so strong that various sports have become leading themes in comics for young boys, which has led to martial arts being featured in several manga. Pioneers such as Judō Icchokusen (“Judo Dreams”; serialized 1967-71) and the sumō world’s Notari Matsutarō (1973-98)led the way, followed by the kendo series Musashi No Ken (1981-85), the judo series Yawara! (1986-93) and others that allowed no let-up in the wave of popular manga.
SHOW MORE In contrast to computer games, which concentrate on battle scenes, these manga have strong story attributes and depict educational themes such as achieving growth and self-realization through the martial arts and searching for the meaning of life. Such manga have originality and resonate deeply in the hearts of young people facing similar issues in their lives. There have also been several manga without and sports content that depict historical events, such as Inoue Takehiko’s Vagabond (1998-present), based on Yoshikawa Eiji’s novel portraying the life of the legendary swordsman Miyamoto Musashi; Basilisk: Kōga Ninpōchō (2003-4) based upon Yamada Fūtarō’s novel of the Ninpōchō (“ninja scrolls”) series, and several others that in recent years have gained popularity without fail. The people who maintain this culture come from a wide range of social strata, not just certain classes. The warrior class that dominated Japan’s military culture for centuries was only one class of people. If there were those who fought with armor and weapons, there were also artisans who created necessary weapons and equipment. Although their numbers are sorely diminished, their techniques continue unbroken to the present. In recent years, we have seen the appearance of leading-edge industrial products that illustrate an awareness of that tradition. For example, a company says that the design of its digital camera is based upon a sword motif. There are also products in the fashion world that use such keywords as mononofu (“warrior”) or “samurai.” For the Japanese themselves, an awareness of the weight of tradition touches several parts of their daily lives as well. One of the keywords of Japanese culture is bu (武; “samurai spirit”), and it is a theme that is understood even in mass culture and popular culture. It is anticipated that a study of this concept will lead to a deeper and more meaningful understanding of japan and her people.SHOW LESS
Since its founding in 1972 the Japan Foundation has conducted a comprehensive and worldwide program of activities with the aim of promoting international understanding through cultural exchange in three areas: arts and cultural exchange, Japanese-language education overseas, and Japanese studies and intellectual exchange.
The Japan Foundation engages in international cultural-exchange activities in cooperation with over 130 countries around the world, focusing on three major program areas: Arts and Cultural Exchange, Japanese-Language Education Overseas, and Japanese Studies and Intellectual Exchange. In order to enhance the understanding of Japanese arts and culture through the visual arts, the Foundation collaborates with overseas museums on a wide range of exhibitions from traditional to contemporary arts. The Foundation also organizes traveling exhibitions of paintings, crafts, photographs, design, and architecture. About twenty traveling exhibitions of various forms are being shown around the world.
Recognizing the opportunity that this situation presents, the Japan Foundation is sponsoring “The Spirit of Budō: The History of Japan's Martial Arts”, an international travelling exhibition planned against a background of strong overseas interest in Japan's martial-arts culture. In this exhibition, we seek the understanding of viewers about the brief history of Japanese martial arts—from battlefield combat technique (bujutsu) to popular sports or physical exercise tempering body and spirit (budō).
We hope that through this exhibition the viewers will become aware of not only the history f Japanese martial arts, but also of people’s aesthetic awareness and creativity, and Japan’s social history and the Japanese way of thinking from a new angle.
Finally, we would like to express our gratitude to all of the experts, contributors, and budō associations for their cooperation in helping us to realize this exhibition.
The Japan Foundation