Scholars have said that to know the story of the 47 ronin is to know Japan. A legend of loyalty and sacrifice, this tale describes how nearly four dozen men avenged the death of their master — and then accepted their own demise — to uphold the principles of their culture. Their dedication to their country’s principles is still felt in Japan today, and from Oct. 5, 2013 to Jan. 12, 2014, more than five centuries worth of intricate armor from these high-ranking warriors are on display at the Portland Art Museum. A collection of regalia, weaponry and battle gear, Samurai! Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection shows how the Japanese warrior class evolved from military nobility to outlaws in a modern world, their armor and weaponry changing with the times.
In addition to the exhibit, a series of movies at the Northwest Film Center celebrates samurai on the silver screen, from the 1962 Japanese feature Harakiri to Quentin Tarantino’s 2003 revenge tale Kill Bill. Airing from October to late December, the selection of films also includes westerns like The Magnificent Seven and A Fistful of Dollars, which were remakes of samurai stories.
And, bringing a modern day twist to the exhibition, visitors also get exclusive access to Usagi Yojimbo: Way of the Ronin, a mobile game for iOS and Android. Through a passcode available in the exhibit hall, players can unlock a free level and special armor inspired by a design in the museum. The game, based on a book by Portland’s Dark Horse Comics, follows a samurai rabbit through feudal Japan, as he, like the 47 ronin, tries to restore order to the country.