The royal collection of Japanese artefacts to go on display at Buckingham Palace

2nd December 2021

The royal collection of Japanese artefacts to go on display at Buckingham Palace

Japan and the UK are united in their status as constitutional monarchies. Whatever your opinion on the royal families in modern times, they were profoundly crucial in history. 


The relationship between the British and Japanese royals informed the relationships between the two nations. The first official contact between them was when a letter from James I was delivered to Shōgun Tokugawa Ieyasu by ship captain John Saris in 1613. Saris returned with, not only a letter granting the English permission to live and trade in Japan, but also a suit of Japanese samurai armour. This was the first, but far from the last gift, that the royal family would receive from Japanese nobility. 


The royal family have amassed an impressive collection of Japanese artefacts over the last four centuries, one that they are making available to view by the public. The collection includes items made by the highest quality craftsman at the time, such as weaponry, porcelain, lacquer, woodcut prints, delicate fans and works of art. You can browse the collection online here.


The armour given by Shōgun Tokugawa Ieyasu is the oldest item in the collection because of the 220 years between 1630 to 1850 when Japan shut its borders to all foreign trade outside of the Dutch. In 1869, After Japan reopened to the west, Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, became the first European prince to visit Japan, arriving on HMS Galatea. He had an audience with Emperor Meiji in Tokyo, and was gifted various works of art to add to this collection. 


Other items that will go on display include beautiful porcelain painted in Kakiemon-style from the 17th century, andintricate paper screen. Not only are these items made by expert craftsmen but they tell the history of Japan, depicting the fashions and culture at the time.  


A similar exhibition was held in 1910. More than 8 million people visited the Japan-British exhibition in London. This exhibit opens to the public at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace on 8 April 2022 until 12 March 2023. Hopefully it will capture the publics imagination in a similar way to the 1910 exhibit. It's a fantastic opportunity to see grand historical artifacts, and how the history of the two nations intertwines.

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