BC learns the ways of the samurai

Student volunteer demonstrating samurai armor.
Student volunteer demonstrating samurai armor. Alyssa Brown / The Watchdog

On Friday, March 10 in room B204, guest speaker Lynn Miyauchi presented a lecture called Samurai Undressed, which centered around Japanese samurai. Miyauchi gave a lecture on the history of samurai and demonstrated how the traditional samurai looked and what weapons they carried.

The complete samurai outfiit. Alyssa Brown / The Watchdog

Miyuchi is the senior specialist for cultural affairs from the Consulate General of Japan. “The Consulate General of Japan serves many purposes for Japanese citizens, we act as the group that will assist them if they’re having any trouble while they’re living in the States,” she explained.  Miyuchi talked about opportunities for students to live in Japan through Japanese government scholarships as well as the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program, which can be accessed from jetprogramusa.org.

Anne Matsumoto Stewart, who organized the event recommended attendees to “contact us if you want us to place you” in Japanese classes in Bellevue College.

Miyuchi, who labeled herself as not an expert but an enthusiast, began her presentation by first discussing the correct pronunciation of the word samurai, which is pronounced “saw-moo-rye” instead of the common mispronunciation of “sam-er-i.” There is a whole culture around the samurai, with art, architecture and cultural practices based on the samurai influence. Miyuchi examined artwork that showed samurai with decorative armor and clothing and explained what they were wearing.

“A lot of the castles in Japan give opportunities for visitors to wear armor so if that’s something that interests you, go ahead and check it out,” she recommended. She brought two bows, or yumis, a modern and traditional bow. Miyuchi brought out her own lacquered, carbon fiber bow, which was large enough so that she was encompassed inside the arch of the bow. The other, smaller one was traditional and bamboo. Attendees were allowed to view both bows at the end of the presentation.

She also addressed female samurai, which are not talked about as much. “They went into battle, they were excellent archers, had excellent horses, they used swords, they used something called a naginata, which is a wicked weapon, it’s like a spear with a blade at the end,” explained Miyuchi. She also talked about a famous male samurai called Date Masamune, who was known for founding the city of Sendai.

For the second half of Miyuchi’s presentation, she showed replicas of katchu, or samurai armor. She placed traditional samurai garb onto a student, and spoke about each item as she put them on him. The katchu she demonstrated included shin guards, thigh guards, a chestplate, a skirt and a helmet. Miyuchi quizzed students about the clothing items by asking which ways the clothes were put on and taught everyone the names of the armor. A paper with the samurai armor labeled and explained was given out for ease of learning. At the end of Miyuchi’s presentation, her student was covered head to toe in armor so attendees could see what an actual samurai might look like.