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Cambridge University Library

Samurai history and legend

Join Dr Kristin Williams, Head of Japanese Section at Cambridge University Library, and curator of Samurai: History and legend, for this introductory exhibition tour.

Samurai are a well-known image of Japan, but they are as much legend as history. This exhibition will explore the literary concept of the samurai and the changing nature of Japanese warrior culture from the 12th to the 19th centuries.

The great warriors of Japan’s medieval period (roughly the 13th to 16th centuries) gradually gave way to a more well-defined and self-conscious warrior class that ruled over a long period of relative peace, from the 17th to the mid-19th century. Today’s familiar images of the samurai began to take shape in the histories and vibrant popular culture of that peaceful time. During this period, records and reinterpretations of an older Japanese warrior culture helped construct the histories and myths of the samurai that today hold sway in Japan and beyond.

Generously supported by the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation, the Howard and Abby Milstein Foundation and the Friends of Cambridge University Library.

  • Tours are free and suitable for all ages, pre-booking essential
  • Tours are limited to 12 people (including children) per tour
  • Guided tour will last 25 minutes with time at the end to ask the guide your questions
  • It is a legal requirement that face coverings are worn in libraries. We request that registrants take a lateral flow test within 24 hours of your visit, and to not attend the tour if you are displaying symptoms of the Coronavirus.

Venue: These in-person tours will take place in the Milstein Exhibition Centre at Cambridge University Library. Click here for the location of Cambridge University Library. On arrival, please make your way up the main steps and into the Entrance Hall, and follow the signs to the Exhibition Centre to the right.

RegistrationBOOK HERE (Please check registration page for availability. We are operating a waiting list if curator tours become full. Email with your name, the number of spaces and the date of the tour you would like to attend, and we will add you to the waiting list).

Accessibility: Our exhibition is wheelchair-friendly. Accessible parking, step-free access and accessible toilets are available. Please let us know in advance if you have any access requirements by emailing

Date: Friday 20 May 2022