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Posted at 02:07 PM ET, 04/12/2012

‘Samurai’: Art in focus

“Samurai: The Warrior Transformed” features swords and sword-handle guards (or tsuba) as well as several suits of armor. (Rebecca Drobis/National Geographic)
Two sides of the samurai are on view at the National Geographic Museum, where an exhibition on the transformation of the Japanese warrior into a diplomat commemorates the 100th anniversary of Tokyo’s gift of cherry trees to the city of Washington. “Samurai: The Warrior Transformed” includes an array of weapons and armor, along with material about the peacetime role of the legendary feudal warriors.

Read my review of the show, and check out a selection of images after the jump.

Samurai were known for their bravery. This chest plate with the crouching dragon design has the inscription “tatenashi-no-yoroi,” on the interior meaning “armor that needs no shield.” (Rebecca Drobis/National Geographic)

The crouching dragon is just one of many icons from nature associated with samurai virtues. Another popular motif was the cherry blossom, a symbol of the fleeting nature of life. (Rebecca Drobis/National Geographic)

Samurai were brave, but not foolhardy. As with any self-respecting knight, this metal mask protected the warrior’s face. (Rebecca Drobis/National Geographic)

While renowned as swordsmen, Japan’s samurai originated as archers, as evidenced by the quiver of arrows carried by the warrior in the back of this double portrait. (Library of Congress)

Like modern-day samurai, Kyoto’s fire department trainees are outfitted in uniforms evoking the feudal Japanese warriors’ armor. (Michael Yamashita)

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