Rare and Surprising Photographs of the True Last Samurai

Samurai were the military nobility and officer caste of medieval and early-modern Japan.

Samurai is a masculine term, but in the Japanese Bushi class – the social class Samurai came from – many women also received training in martial arts and strategy. These women were known as Onna-Bugeisha. When the remains from the site of The Battle of Senbon Matsubara in 1580 were DNA-tested, 35 out of 105 bodies were found to be female.

Samurai were also very open-minded when it came to sexual relationships. Same-sex relationships were encouraged. The practice was known as wakashudo.

The Samurai were far more educated than most warriors of their time. Samurai literacy rates were extremely high.

A Group of Samurai circa 1890 – an Illustration from the the booklet Au Japon, Types, Costumes and Moeurs. Daily Mail
A group of Samurai or Japanese warriors with their ancient arms and armor, circa 1870. Daily Mail
A Harakiri scene of the Samurai – warriors overseeing the ritual suicide of one of their own (dressed in white). Daily Mail
A photograph taken and colored by Felice Beato of women in a traditional Japanese shop back in the 19th century. Daily Mail
A Samurai warrior in Japan poses in traditional armor and footwear blowing into a shell. Daily Mail
A Samurai warrior staging Seppuku or Harakiri in Japan – the ritual of taking one’s life through disembowelment. Daily Mail
A Samurai poses for a staged photograph, with some rocks and a plant for realism. Hulton Archive
A Samurai shows off his full body tattoos. lifebuzz
A Samurai soldier in colorful armor poses for a photograph. lifebuzz
A woman photographed in traditional Samurai armor. lifebuzz
An archer posing with his bow and arrows. lifebuzz
An elderly Samurai man poses for a photograph with his sword and his fan. Getty Images
One of the first war photographers Venetian-born Felice Beato took this photo around the time of 1862. Daily Mail
Samurai swords or katanas were the most common and popular weapons used by these warriors. Universal History Archive
Three Japanese Samurai warriors in armor and ready for battle with their weapons on standby. Daily Mail
Three Japanese Samurai warriors pictured in their colorful war attire and equipped with a number of swords circa 1890. Daily Mail
A Samurai shows off his full body tattoo. Universal History Archive