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Another one for Piers

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Recently, I visited the Berlin SAMURAI Museum. A lot to see, and all nicely presented so that I absolutely recommend going there. Inspite of all good things, some items were presented in a wrong way (bows strung on the frontside, spelling mistakes on the information tables, YARI shown in a throwing position a.s.o.). I have informed the people there who will correct these mistakes.

A special item was the 440 MONME hand gun - ideally used as a concealed weapon by a NINJA..... 

440 MONME gun in the SAMURAI-Museum Berlin 030.jpg

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Thank you kindly, Jean. The museum sounds like a definite place to visit. Glad you were able to adjust some of their fantasies!!! :laughing:

If a 100 Monmé is a rare beast, then anything larger than that is quite special. There was a time in Edo when people vied for larger hand-held cannons. You sometimes come across references to 一貫目 Ik-kan-mé, which is 1,000 Monmé which must surely have been the upper limit, the ball being almost 9 cm in diameter. 

My chart here goes up to 5 Kan, but that would be for a ‘hand’ cannon resting on a wheeled carriage.


I cannot imagine anyone firing without a support/rest; a 100 Monmé blank is usually fired squatting or kneeling and even then it’s an art, a test of mettle. I don’t recall ever seeing one being fired from a standing position.


On Sunday June 12 I accepted the challenge (do not ask), rammed it tight, and (left hand bound to the barrel) fired the 50-Monmé standing up, but it nearly knocked me off my feet, even a blank. 926 grains blackpowder.






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Jean,   I was fortunate enough to be invited to the opening of the 'Samurai Museum' in central Berlin. The collection amd museum are owned by Peter Janssen, a gentleman who has devoted much of his life to collecting Japanese arms and armour and prossibly has one of the finest collection outside Japan. You look at case after case of superb swords or fittings, the contents of which are in pristine condition with blemish free lacquer, stunning mounts and blades in perfect polish. Mr. Janssen is the owner of a string of nursing homes for the elderly, using the basement area on one of these homes, situated on the outskirts of Berlin for his first 'museum'. Until you have been, you could not begin to envisage the quality and quantity of the items he has aquired, some of it undisplayed at his first site for lack of space. His latest venture was to move much of the collection to a more central location and open it to the paying public - the original site remains and has been re-envisaged as a 'research facility'. As for the new museum, yes, the bows are not strung correctly for the simple reason they are old and there would be every possibility of them breaking if you tried to string them properly. Among the displays are dummies dressed in armour holding yari. Since they are open dispays, the real blades have been replaced with copies in aluminium for obvious reasons. You could comment on the diarama of mounted figures brandishing yari, but at least they are not being 'couched' like lances and the display does show the harnesses to perfection.  No doubt the odd spelling mistake has crept into the texts because the electronic labels are dual language, primarily in german, but in all cases with english translations. Some labels can also display X-ray images of the pieces (I am thinking particularly of a Saotome helmet) to show structure. As an ex museum curator, I could criticise the open displays of some armours, but most of the better items are in protective cases and light damage has been minimized by low light levels. In some areas proximity switches ensure that the cases are illuminated when you approach them. Having spent a lot of time displaying similar material and trying to make the text on labels intelligable to the ordinary public, I for one would not criticise what Mr. Janssen has achieved. The overall quality of the displays and labelling are exceptional. One minor item that I loved was a figure in kamishimo peering over a balcony that is so relistic you could easily belive it is a real person.

Ian Bottomley

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thank you for your comments.

As with most things, perfection is difficult to attain, so I did not mean to criticize the museum. I admired the display and the items, and I knew about the personal commitment and background of Mr. Janssen. Anyhow, as the staff there are no experts, I think I was allowed to mention the flaws and help to improve the quality.


Japanese bows have a complex construction and they are even more likely to break if strung on the wrong side! But in case they are genuinely old, they should not be strung at all. They are glued with fish glue, and there is a high risk that they break when they have dried out. They usually last only for about 60 years, even in Japanese climate.
Such a wonderful museum will certainly be able to buy replica bows for display purposes! 

As I wrote above, I certainly recommend to visit the museum.


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Jean,  I agree with you about using replia bows. It would be easy enough to buy modern kyudo bows and paint them up to look like old ones. Yes a fabulous museum and a credit to Peter Janssen.

Ian B

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