Japanese Collection

A world-renowned Japanese collection including lacquer, samurai armour, articulated animals and ancient tomb figures.

Japanese Samurai

The Japanese lacquer, or urushi, collection at Chiddingstone Castle is one of the finest in Western Europe and is one of Denys Eyre Bower’s greatest achievements.

Denys grew up in a collector’s world. His father collected swords and was a knowledgeable collector of ancient Chinese porcelain. His mother collected Japanese netsuke, or carved toggles. Denys was surrounded by Asian works of art from a young age, in a household which followed the Victorian-period fashion for Japanese art.

Japanese art also provided a particularly rewarding field for collecting, as it was highly accessible during the beginning of the 20th Century. Denys collected in particular around the 40s and 50s when the interest in Japanese art had begun to fade in Europe. He was able to build up an important collection by buying works at auction or from dealers for relatively low prices.

As a result of Denys Bower’s lifelong interest in Japanese swords, Chiddingstone Castle has an exquisite collection, an important selection of which is on display. The collection demonstrates a wide variety of types of swords and sword fittings including highly decorative pieces from the Edo Period (1603-1868). There are also examples of sword fittings in the collection made specifically for the export market.

The Japanese collection includes Japanese lacquerwares, samurai arms and armour, articulated iron models of animals, and three 7th-century clay tomb figures or haniwa