The Harvard Club of the United Kingdom invites you to a private tour of

Samurai: History and Legend




Treasures from one of the world’s most important collections of Japanese literature
on public display for the first time at Cambridge University Library


Dr Kristin Williams (PhD 2012),  Head of Japanese and Korean Section at Cambridge University Library, will lead a small private tour of this unique and rare collection. 

The free exhibition, which runs until May 28, 2022, explores the historic roots of the samurai and the literary image of the samurai in manuscripts and woodblock-printed books from Japan. The objects provide a contrast to familiar imagery and modern perceptions of the samurai that, especially in the West, have led to widespread misunderstanding of their social and cultural role in Japan. Samurai were not only warriors. Life as a samurai was complex and multi-faceted, not all predicated on warriorship, samurai swords and battles. Some exhibition texts reveal the place of music and performance in samurai life or show samurai playing the flute.

Even the delicate art of flower arranging had deep ties to Buddhist practice and was part of samurai culture.   

The later objects in the exhibition are colourful and visually striking. During a long period of peace, Japan developed a publishing industry with books, maps, and games for commoners and samurai alike. This later print culture shows a playful irreverence toward the samurai. 

The exhibition includes a book depicting cats dressed as samurai complete with swords, and a board game in which the players throw a die to follow the life of a medieval warrior. There are also sketches by Hokusai, one of Japan’s most famous artists.


Date:          Thursday, 21 April 2022

Location:   Cambridge University Library, West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DR

Time:         5:45 – 6:30 pm

Price:         Free. Limited to 12 participants.


Please see the website here for more information about the exhibition:


Kristin H. Williams is Head of the Japanese Section at Cambridge University Library. Prior to coming to Cambridge UK, she completed a PhD in Japanese Literature in Harvard's department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations and served as a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Wellesley College. Her 2012 dissertation, “Visualizing the Child: Japanese Children’s Literature in the Age of Woodblock Print, 1678-1888,” focused on eighteenth-century picturebooks for children and the ways that these picturebooks depicted and addressed children.