What Do Archery, Samurai
and "Star Wars" Have in
Common? What Do Archery, Samurai and "Star Wars" Have in Common?

We like to think “Star Wars” depicts some far-off galaxy with intergalactic ties totally unrelated to us, right? Well, “Star Wars” actually embodies many ideals of Japanese culture. Let’s explore the awesome transformation of the movie’s original stormtroopers concept, as well as some other characters in the “Star Wars” universe and the magnificently crafted art forms they embody. More specifically, let’s study the bow-wielding samurai warrior!

The Beginning

Japanese artist Mizuno Toshikata painted this bow-wielding samurai warrior in 1899. Photo Credit: Mizuno Toshikata

Japanese artist Mizuno Toshikata painted this bow-wielding samurai warrior in 1899. Photo Credit: Mizuno Toshikata

George Lucas likes movies by Japan’s Akira Kurosawa, a highly respected filmmaker who directed “Ran,” “Rashomon,” “Seven Samurai,” “Yojimbo” and “The Hidden Fortress.” That’s why “Star Wars” – specifically characters R2D2, C3PO, Obi Wan Kenobi, Princess Leia and Darth Vader – is loosely based on the plot of “The Hidden Fortress.” Pretty cool, eh?

Furthermore, Jedi knights are considered the samurai of outer space. The Jedi Order contains noble values and disciplines that resemble those of bushido, the “way of the warrior” followed by Japanese samurai. The samurai, meanwhile, are considered military nobility and the defenders of peace. It appears, however, that the stormtroopers in “Star Wars” didn’t evolve to that level, being on the dark side and all.

Stormtroopers and Kyūdō

Japanese collectible brand Tamashii Nations upgraded the traditional stormtroopers’ garb by adding a bow and arrow to the warrior’s arsenal, thus honoring the traditions of the Japanese samurai. Photo Credit: Tamashii Nations

Japanese collectible brand Tamashii Nations upgraded the traditional stormtroopers’ garb by adding a bow and arrow to the warrior’s arsenal, thus honoring the traditions of the Japanese samurai. Photo Credit: Tamashii Nations

Bushido philosophies inspired the creation of Kyūjutsu — the art of archery — in feudal Japan. Kyūdō today is a form of contemplative shooting that teaches active meditation. Because that’s a form of spiritual meditation, like all būdo types, “correct shooting is correct hitting.” When translated, that means Kyūdō’s unique actions result in a natural release. Maybe if the “Star Wars” stormtroopers were more meditative with their blasters, they might hit their targets more often. Am I right? By neglecting “the way of Kyūjutsu,” maybe they relegated themselves to being stormtroopers instead of knights!

Action Figures or Collectibles?

The “Star Wars” collectibles by Tamashii Nations come complete with a sword, armor, arrows, a quiver and a bow that folds down for holstering. Photo Credit: Tamashii Nations

The “Star Wars” collectibles by Tamashii Nations come complete with a sword, armor, arrows, a quiver and a bow that folds down for holstering. Photo Credit: Tamashii Nations

Even so, “Star Wars” action figures depicting stormtroopers make some kick-butt figurines! These figurines (pictured above) are designed by Japanese collectible brand Tamashii Nations. They come with everything a kid (or an adult’s inner kid) wants in an action figure: a sword, some amazing armor, a quiver for those awesome arrows, and — last, but not least — a bow that folds down for holstering! Who doesn’t want that?!

These amazing figurines make awesome gifts. But because every “Star Wars” fan will want to collect them, you better grab them quickly before the holidays. We’ll let you decide whether to remove them from the box or reserve them as collectibles in your amazing and ever-growing stash of “Star Wars” memorabilia.

Cosplay Transformations

Turn heads at any Comic-Con event or Renaissance festival by combining stormtrooper garb with that of the traditional Japanese samurai. Photo Credit: Flickr user - Boo Radlus

Turn heads at any Comic-Con event or Renaissance festival by combining stormtrooper garb with that of the traditional Japanese samurai. Photo Credit: Flickr user – Boo Radlus

This new take on the ever-popular franchise goes far beyond the domain of small sellable collectables. Fans are changing their Comic-Con outfits to match the figurines’ samurai armor, thus giving the “Star Wars look a makeover that turns heads at any event.

Donning this new armor puts all other stormtroopers to shame. Similar changes were made to the Boba Fett and Darth Vader collectibles to reflect the feudal Japanese style. Darth Vader, for instance, wields a katana (a long, single-edged sword used by Japanese samurai) with a red hue to match the on-screen character’s lightsaber.

Do you know of a Renaissance festival near you? If so, you could change your space-age looking trooper into a medieval warrior of honor and discipline.

Fan Art

Nikolas Draper-Ivey reimagined the “Force Awakens” crew as feudal Japanese warriors in his series of Tumblr fan art. Photo Credit: Nikolas Draper-Ivey

Nikolas Draper-Ivey reimagined the “Force Awakens” crew as feudal Japanese warriors in his series of Tumblr fan art. Photo Credit: Nikolas Draper-Ivey

Discipline in the arts is just as cool as discipline with a bow and arrow, and the “Star Wars” universe is full of amazing artwork by its fans. Fan art usually depicts characters from any facet of a known genre, and gives a creative take on how each artist imagines them.

In this case, Nikolas Draper-Ivey’s take on the new “Force Awakens” crew gives them an awesome spin into the “feudal Japan” concept. We can see the rebel Poe (pictured below) dressed as a horseback archer! How awesome is that? And by donning samurai garb, Finn and Rey give us a cool look at what our rebellious counterparts could look like against the looming Kylo Ren and his darker appearance with the katana-lightsaber.

In an interview with the Daily Dot, Draper-Ivey said, “It’s no secret that samurai influenced the Jedi knights in many ways.” Jedi robes, for example, were inspired by the work of Akira Kurosawa in “The Seven Samurai.” Funny how it all came full circle to Lucas through his appreciation for this gifted Japanese director.

Nikolas Draper-Ivey depicts the “Star Wars” rebel Poe as a horseback archer. Photo Credit: Nikolas Draper-Ivey

Nikolas Draper-Ivey depicts the “Star Wars” rebel Poe as a horseback archer. Photo Credit: Nikolas Draper-Ivey

Bushido is a remarkable part of Japan’s cultural history, and we’re thankful the Kyūjutsu paved the way for today’s Kyūdō archery. It’s mesmerizing how much cooler these disciplines make the “Star Wars” universe look and feel.

Who knows what we’ll see of these influences in the remaining films in the “Star Wars” franchise. All that’s certain is that we’ll see a lot of Halloween, Comic-Con and Renfest participants who want to don the new looks! Owning a collectable or two wouldn’t hurt, either.

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