At the time I’m writing this, it’s starting to get a little warmer here in Japan. The plum blossoms are blooming and everyone is looking forward to the cherry blossoms. If you’ve ever seen the anime or manga called Rurouni Kenshin, I’m sure you’re familiar with the lovely spring scenes rendered in the series. I want to say that sea of pink is an exaggeration, but it isn’t.
Right now, during this lovely spring season the “~Kenshin VS Shishio~ The world of Rurouni Kenshin and Japanese Swords Exhibit” (「~検診VS志々雄~るろうに剣心と日本刀の世界展」) is being held at the Seki Traditional Swordsmith Museum in Seki City.
Seki Traditional Swordsmith Museum
The Seki Traditioan Swordsmith Museum is a museum devoted to showcasing the history and art of Japanese swordsmithing located in the heart of Seki in Gifu Prefecture.
Seki, which is located in the part of Gifu that was once called Mino, has a 700 year long history of smithing. You can explore some of this history on the first floor of the museum.
If you come on the first Sunday of the month or during the Cutlery Festival/Hamono Matsuri in October, you can also see craftsmen at work making saya, habaki, and other parts of the Japanese sword.
They also have a small exhibit of swords that rotates occasionally. Right now it features a mix of old and new Mino-den swords.
The next gallery is long because, well, I like swords. Feel free to keep scrolling.
Rurouni Kenshin VS Shishio Exhibit
While I recommend taking your time checking out the first floor, the main goal of my visit was, of course, the Rurouni Kenshin exhibit.
There’s a small ticket booth to the left of the door when you walk in. Tickets for the exhibit are 500円 per person for adults and 200円 for elementary to high schoolers.
I was able to get quite a few goodies for the exhibit: a flyer, a character card, two large-sized postcards featuring both Kenshin’s sakabato and Shishio’s Mugenjin, a transparent bookmark, and, of course, an entry ticket with the special exhibit featured on it.
The character cards are limited to the first 10,000 visitors and the large postcard set is limited to the first 1000 guests who buy a book or fill out the survey. I was told that they were already running low on the postcards.
Here’s a better shot of everything I that took later.
The Kenshin VS Shishiso exhibit is up on the second floor. Both stairs and and an elevator are available.
As you make your way through the exhibit, there is information for both sword lovers and fans of the Rurouni Kenshin series.
On one side, you have signs on the wall with information about swordsmithing during the Bakumatsu and Meiji era, the sword eras (koto, shinto, shinshinto) with examples. Unfortunately, while the basic sword info for the swords has an English translation, the meat of all the text is in Japanese.
The other side of the gallery is devoted to the Rurouni Kenshin manga.
There’s info on the manga, some info boards explaining who Kenshin and Shishio are, and a lovely ink illustration of the two characters in battle. It’s really cool and I love how they blew up the images of the original art.
And in the center of the exhibit you can find the stars of the show: Kenshin’s Sakabato and Shishio’s Mugenjin.
Of course, I love Kenshin, but the Mugenjin is just too cool. The serration on the edge is very fine. You can’t see it from far away.
While my feelings about the mangaka are complicated, Rurouni Kenshin is still a major reason why I started iaido. I loved this story when I was in high school. Also, it’s still one of the best historical fiction manga I’ve ever read.
I’m always excited to see these kinds of pop culture meets traditonal exhibitions. The lack of knowledge or interest in traditional arts in Japan is slowly killing them off. There were a lot of students in school uniforms at the exhibit today. These kinds of mashups are an excellent way to make younger generations aware of traditional arts, which could possibly lead to new craftsmen and women.
Also, more simply, it was really cool. How could it not be? They had Kenshin and Shishio’s swords on display. How awesome is that?
How to see it
The Seki Swordsmith Traditon Museum is open every day except Tuesdays and national holidays.
You can see the Kenshin VS Shishio exhibit from 2/18/2023 until 3/30/2023.
Tickets for the special exhibit: 500円 for adults, 200円 for children
Tickets for the museum at other times: 300円 for adults, 200円 for children