Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world. A quote by Miyamoto Musashi and an image of a dragon

6 Ways to Live Like a Samurai

We hope every exhibition at the Denver Art Museum inspires visitors. With Samurai: Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection we thought it would be fun to offer some ways the museum might help visitors explore aspects of samurai philosophy. See our six tips below:

1. Be Artistic

Why have a samurai exhibition at an art museum? Artistry was an incredibly important part of samurai culture. Their helmets, armor, and weapons were made not only to be effective, but also to be beautiful. The 140 pieces in Samurai are wonderful examples of Japanese art and craftsmanship.

In addition, samurai studied calligraphy, poetry, and music. Want to add more art to your own life? Look for ways to incorporate creativity and beauty into everything you do. If you need inspiration, the DAM has you covered with drop-in art and writing programs and activities in our studios. Also, families can make their own samurai helmets in the Just for Fun Center-Japan.

Standing suits of armor in Samurai
In their quest for unique and meaningful armor, samurai might turn to nature, folklore, or religion for inspiration. Whatever the source, samurai selected designs for their armor that would set them apart and communicate their personality and beliefs, whether whimsical, frightening, or spiritual. Photo: Gallery view by Jeff Wells.

2. Be Honest

Honesty was one of the tenets samurai lived by called bushidō, “the way of the warrior.” As Hojo Soun (a samurai who lived in the mid-1400s to the early 1500s) once said, “You must never tell the slightest falsehood to any rank of the common people. On every occasion, be truthful; if you tell lies, others will do the same to you and will come to shun you. And when they catch you in a lie, you will realize that you are disgraced for life.”

3. Be Brave

Samurai were fierce warriors, unafraid of defeat or death.

When meeting difficult situations, one should dash forward bravely and with joy.

– Yamamoto Tsunetomo (a samurai who lived in the late 1600s to the early 1700s)

4. Be Adventurous

Being a samurai meant being willing to travel into the unknown. Embracing adventure even in small ways like taking a different way to work can help you step out of a rut and see the world with fresh eyes. Research shows that experiences make us happy, not things.

If you’re at the museum to see Samurai or another exhibition, maybe take a detour and explore a type of art that's new to you.

5. Be Mindful

Samurai were strongly influenced by Zen Buddhism. When preparing for battle or ceremony, samurai warriors paid attention to even the smallest details of their armor and weapons. Here at the DAM, we encourage you to slow down and explore "mindful looking."

Armor of the Dangaedō Type
No detail was unimportant in a samurai’s preparation for battle. You can look closely at 140 objects like this at the DAM through June 5. Armor of the Dangaedō Type. Mask design attributed to Noguchi Zesai. Early Edo period, 1600s. Iron, lacquer, gold, lacing, wood, leather, fur. Photo: Gallery view by Jeff Wells.

6. Be of Service

The term samurai comes from the Japanese verb saburau, which means to serve. While samurai warriors served feudal lords, we can serve others who need our help. Friends, family, coworkers, strangers. A suggestion we like at the DAM is supporting local artists. That's why we sell works by many local artisans in our Shops.

Samurai: Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection is organized by The Ann & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum, Dallas. Local support is provided by the generous donors to the Annual Fund Leadership Campaign and the citizens who support the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD). Promotional support is provided by 5280 Magazine, CBS4, Comcast Spotlight, and The Denver Post.

Carleen Brice edits the blog and On & Off the Wall, the member magazine for the Denver Art Museum. Carleen has been at the DAM since 2013. She recommends visitors don't miss the touchable Ganesha statue on level 2 of the Hamilton Building.

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