Skip to main content

The collection Janssen in Berlin

The Samurai Art Museum, in the Zehlendorf locality of Berlin, introduces you to extraordinary examples of samurai art originating from between the 8th and 19th centuries.

Veranstaltungen in Berlin: Samurai Art Museum
© Foto: Manfred Sackmann

These treasures include armour, helmets, masks, swords and many other exhibits of Japanese art from that period. The samurai, Japan’s legendary and influential military class, is widely considered by westerners to be both mysterious and fascinating. These Japanese nobles are the subject of countless myths and legends. But who were these samurai really? And what were their lives like?

Until now, there have been very few collections of samurai art open to the public. With its unique Janssen Collection, the Samurai Art Museum gives visitors an insight into the cultural life of Japan in a past age and makes these impressive works of Japanese art available to a wider audience. In particular, the museum aims to show visitors that there is more to objects such as armour, masks, helmets and swords than just their function. Far more importantly, they are unique, timeless works of art, made with the utmost precision.

Medieval Japan was shaped by terrible power struggles and blood-soaked family feuds. In this period, a warrior- and arms-based culture unlike any other in the world developed in Japan. Initially, the samurai were simply soldiers employed to serve the emperor and noble clans. Then, through the increase in status of certain clans and the establishment of a military aristocracy, the samurai rose to become a ruling class. They held the highest rank in the military society in which they lived and were an influential force in politics, art and culture.

At the heart of samurai art and culture is their way of life, called Bushido. Bushido translates as ‘the way of the warrior’ and, in premodern Japan, was the source from which the samurai’s code of honour, moral principles and virtues stemmed. Much of Bushido philosophy is taken from the teachings of Shinto, Buddhism and Confucianism. These virtues were first identified all the way back in the Heian period (794-1185), but continued to develop, becoming properly established during the Edo period (1615-1868). From then on they served as the social and moral code of the Japanese people.

Each bushi (warrior) thought and acted according to the ‘seven virtues’ of rectitude, courage, benevolence, courtesy, honesty, honour and loyalty. These virtues also influenced the combat skills, such as sword fighting, archery and handling a spear, that were essential to the samurai, as well as entirely peaceful activities such as the tea ceremony (chado) and calligraphy (shodo). These virtues live on today in modern Japan.
The Samurai Art Museum aims to offer insight into this cultural life that is such a fascinating part of Japanese history. In addition to this, the museum acts as a location for encountering and interacting with other cultures.
Additional information
We do apologize that the following information is currently only available in German.