Japan: Courts and Culture


09 June 2020
New book and exhibition to showcase Royal Collection of Japanese works of art, including armour and swords.
Japan: Courts and Culture Images

The Royal Collection contains one of the finest holdings of Japanese works of art in the western world, significant for both the unique provenance and the exceptional quality of the objects. For the first time, highlights from across the collection are brought together in the publication Japan: Courts and Culture, which tells the story of three centuries of diplomatic, artistic and cultural exchange between Britain and Japan.

Featuring new research on previously unpublished works, the book showcases the unparalleled craftsmanship behind rare examples of Samurai swords, lacquer, armour, metalwork and works on paper, and explores the local materials, techniques and traditions involved in their creation.

Stunning photography illustrates a royal narrative never before documented in a publication, as the relationship between the two island nations develops from first encounters and early trade to diplomatic engagement and modern partnership. Highlights include one of the first two Samurai armours to arrive on British soil, sent by Shōgun Tokugawa Hidetada to James I in 1613, and the future King George V’s first-hand account of having his arms tattooed with a dragon and a tiger on a visit to Japan as a teenager in 1881.

Exquisite imperial gifts depicted in the book range from an embroidered folding screen sent to Queen Victoria by the Emperor Meiji to mark her Diamond Jubilee in 1897, to a cosmetic box by the great lacquer artist Shirayama Shōsai, presented to Queen Elizabeth II by the Emperor Shōwa (Hirohito) on the occasion of her Coronation in 1953.

Japan: Courts and Culture accompanies the exhibition of the same name, which will open at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, at a date to be confirmed.


  • Royal Collection Trust
  • ISBN 978-1-9097-4168-3
  • 320 pages. Hardback. £35.00 from Royal Collection Trust shops, £49.95 otherwise


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