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Secret samurai stash

Looking for Berlin's most underground museum? Head to the Samurai Art Museum in Zehlendorf to see a collection that will only increase your Japanese yearnings.

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Photo by Pavel Mezihorák

If you’re looking for Berlin’s most underground museum, you’ll need to take a trip to faraway Zehlendorf and descend three floors beneath an old folks’ home known as Villa Clay. Here you’ll find the Samurai Art Museum, the city’s finest collection of art and artefacts related to the legendary Japanese warrior tradition, with objects more than a thousand years older than the inhabitants residing above.

The location is no accident: this is the private collection of Villa Clay owner Peter Janssen, a fervent Japanophile who, when he wasn’t developing an empire of over a dozen retirement homes across Germany, toured Europe’s auction markets bidding for silklined armour and ancient swords. Since October 11, you can see the fruits of his labour on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday afternoons in an elegantly minimal concrete space buried under Villa Clay’s Feng Shui garden.

There isn’t much information on display among all the costumes, helmets, masks and blades, but if it’s not too busy, receptionist and samurai researcher Martyna Lesniewska will be happy to provide you with extensive explanations – not a bad deal for your €10 entrance fee. With a collection that keeps growing and upcoming workshops provided by preservation experts, you won’t want to miss this unexpectedly zen spot. Just don’t get too sidetracked by the sound of the waltzing elderly couples merrymaking above.