Thursday, 9 June 2011

The Royal Armouries, Leeds

The Royal Armouries, Leeds
All photos: Itsumo Japan
Royal Armouries Museum
Armouries Drive
LS10 1LT
View location on map

The Oriental Gallery, on the 4th floor of the Royal Armouries in Leeds, is home to a good collection of Japanese swords, staff weapons, tsuba and archery equipment from Japan. In the section of the gallery dedicated to Japan you can view ancient bows and arrows, horse armour and a model of a mounted warrior. There are also exhibits from Toshogu Shrine in Nikko with which the museum is linked. The display centres around the traditional Yabusame horseback archery that is still practiced at the temple's spring festival. A video in the gallery shows images of the festival and the archery. There is even something to interest those, like myself, that aren't
completely fascinated by swords and weapons in the form of information about kimono and the chance to look inside a replica teahouse. Through an archway designed to mimic the architecture of a Japanese temple you will find glass cases displaying arms and armour from various periods and a video showing how traditional Japanese swords are made.

Though the Royal Armouries is sadly passed its heyday when it hosted major exhibitions like 'Shogun', which celebrated the museum's connection with Nikko and featured related events such as an excellent ikebana demonstration, it is still worth a visit for anyone that is interested in Japanese armour, swords and other weapons. I was lucky enough to be treated to a private tour by my husband, who used to work at the Royal Armouries, but as a result of recent severe cutbacks daily demonstrations are no longer held at the museum and there is a lack of knowledgeable staff working in the galleries.

The Oriental Gallery
Detail of horse armour
Exhibits from Toshogu Shrine, Nikko
Information about kimono
Display of Japanese swords


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