Samurai: The Warrior Transformed

  • Date
    March 7, 2012 – July 8, 2012 (except for December 25, 2012)
  • Time 10:00 a.m.
  • Location Washington, D.C.
  • Price Exhibition included in Museum Admission; Adults - $8; Members/Military/Seniors (Over 62)/Students/Groups (25+) - $6; Children (Ages 5-12) - $4; School & Youth Groups (18 and Under) - Free

Past Event

Photo: Samurai helmet

Photograph courtesy NG Studio

Photo: Samurai armor
Photograph courtesy NG Studio

In the Western imagination, “samurai” often conjures up warriors, swords, and armor. Rarely do the words “diplomat” and “cultural ambassador” enter the conversation. However these roles are equally important in understanding the legacy of the samurai as a cultural symbol.

In a uniquely Washington look at the storied Japanese warriors, this exhibition presents the transformation of the samurai. They went from being a feudal military class dominating Japanese history from 1185–1867 to serving as a vehicle for building bridges with the West.

Consider the use of the warrior as a diplomatic tool as you examine swords presented to President Ulysses Grant and elaborate suits of armor given to Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt. Illustrations and photographs further chart the role samurai played in relations between the United States and Japan from their first visit in 1860 through the 1930s.

A companion photography gallery displays images by writer, photographer, and geographer Eliza R. Scidmore who made many visits to Japan beginning 1885. The first woman on the National Geographic Board, she played an instrumental role in the gift of the cherry trees from Tokyo to Washington. The iconic trees are celebrating their 100th anniversary since they were planted along the banks of the Potomac and around the Tidal Basin in 1912. Featuring portraits, pearl diving, and tea ceremonies, her hand-tinted photographs reflect a fascination with Japanese people and culture.

Drop In Programs, alternate program daily at 2:00 p.m.
Included with exhibit ticket

  • Join us for a drop-in program examining Japanese societal roles under the Tokugawa
    Shogunate. Visitors will learn about the samurai’s role in Japan’s hierarchical society
    through an interactive mapping demonstration.
  • Enjoy an informal talk with a visitor services representative to learn more about the first Japanese diplomatic visitors to Washington, D.C. in 1860. The discussion, based on primary source diaries, letters, and newspaper articles, will reveal American impressions of the visit as well as the impact it had on the future of the samurai.

Tour, Mondays at 11:00 a.m.
Included with exhibit ticket
Join National Geographic Museum staff for an in-depth look at the stories and artifacts featured in the exhibition. Tours last approximately 45 minutes.

Explorer Backpack, available anytime
Included with exhibit ticket
Do you have what it takes to be a National Geographic explorer? On your next visit to the
Museum check out one of our Family Explorer backpacks to find out. Designed for children
of all ages, each group will get their own educational “field guide” and backpack loaded with
everything needed to explore the exhibition by looking, moving, touching, and doing.

Please email NatGeoMuseum[at]ngs.org for more information or to register.

Generous support has been provided by:

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