Shogun: The Life of Tokugawa Ieyasu

Ian Bottomley introduces an exhibition which reflects a special moment in Anglo-Japanese relations in the 17th century, echoed today by a unique loan arrangement between the Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds and the Nikko Toshogu Shrine, resting place of the first significant Shogun.

It is no coincidence that the Royal Armouries Museum is hosting an exhibition this summer to celebrate the life of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the Shogun of Japan in the early years of the seventeenth century. Two armours, a gift from the Tokugawa to James I of England and VI of Scotland were the first known oriental items to enter the Royal Armouries collection in the Tower of London. These, together with a sword and a number of painted screens, were given to mark the successful conclusion of a trading treaty between Japan and England, negotiated in 1613 by Captain John Saris of the East India Company (although there is no record that James ever received this gift). The presentation was made through Tokugawa Hidetada, but it was his father, Tokugawa Ieyasu, who signed the treaty document and it was his personal armourer, Iwai Yosaemon of Nara who made the armours. Saris’s diary recording the gift, and one of the gift armours, will appear in the exhibition.

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