Thanks to the efforts of Parks Events and Recreation Director John McClenny, the Samurai Warrior suit of armor replica presented to Stillwater as a Centennial Celebration gift in 1989 is on display in the Stillwater Community Center. The beautiful new case was created by McClenny at the request of the Sister Cities council in its desire to have the armor out of storage and on display for the public to enjoy. Mayor Masataka Kuriyama and the 12-member citizen delegation from Kameoka enjoyed seeing the display during their visit to Stillwater for the 20th anniversary celebration and Oklahoma State University homecoming festivities.

McClenny is an amateur wood-worker who constructed the cabinet at his home as a gift to the council. He has been associated with Sister Cities programs since the beginning of the partnership in 1985. As the city park planner, he worked on development of the Kameoka Trail, the establishment of the Kameoka Koen (the garden previously located next to the city municipal building) and provided valuable assistance to the Japanese gardeners who built the International Friendship Garden at the Community Center.

The Samurai display case frame is built of yellow poplar with birch plywood panels. The finish is Bombay Mahogany stain with a glossy polyurethane finish. McClenny said, “I spent a lot of time looking at examples of Japanese furniture before starting the design. I knew that I could never duplicate their craftsmanship but at least wanted to try and give it a Japanese “look.” The design is also intended to resemble a sedan chair. Because the samurai is a respected warrior he deserves to be seated in a place of honor.”

“I am grateful for the opportunity to have built the Samurai case. I wanted to undertake this project because I knew it would be a good learning experience for me because I really enjoy wood-working and wanted to improve my skills. There is nothing like eight and a half months of practice every Saturday to help a person learn. I have enjoyed my association with the visitors from our sister city throughout the years. Remembering the skill and care the gardeners from Kameoka exercised when they built the garden at the Community Center inspired me to do my best.”

“I also need to give a great deal of credit to two employees of Parks Events and Recreation. Rodney Wilson and Ron Jones put in a lot of time and effort to help finish the cabinet during the last three weeks. I’m not sure I would have met the deadline without their help. Working with them and learning from them was very beneficial.”

The Samurai suit of armor was presented by Mayor Yoshihisa Taniguchi and accepted by the late Mayor Mike Henson at a city commission meeting in April of 1989.

In Japan, Samurai armor is no longer used, but it is displayed each year from mid-April until May 5, which is Children’s Day. Taniguchi said, “The Japanese keep the swords upside-down to represent they are a peaceful people and turn the handles up to show they are ready to fight.” Placed behind the armor is a pair of lanterns with the Kameoka symbol on them to “light the future of our friendship.”

Samurai is the Japanese word for a warrior class of people. Their suit of armor was worn only by the highest military class of Samurai, shoguns and emperors. Japanese Samurai warriors came into existence in the 12th century when two powerful clans fought bitter wars against each other. At that time, a system of military rulers called the shogun was formed. Under the shogun, the next hierarchy was the daimyo who were local rulers, and the Samurai were their military retainers. Samurai warriors had a code of behavior called bushido, meaning “way of the warrior” which required complete loyalty to the daimyo. Membership in the Samurai class was hereditary.

According to historians, the fierce battles between hostile clans and war lords was mainly a fight for land as only 20 percent of Japan’s rugged, mountainous area can be used for agriculture. The rise and fall of the Samurai makes for fascinating history through the end of the 15th century, when they lost control over the country and reforms changed the life of the Samurai class. In the mid-1800s, the last shogun resigned, the emperor was reinstalled as the formal leader of Japan and the old feudal system and privileges of the Japanese samurai class were officially abolished.

Come by the west lobby of the Community Center to see this representation of Japanese history, the generosity of our sister city of Kameoka, Japan and the handiwork of McClenny.

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