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The Way of the Warrior- Rare portraits of Japanese Samurais from 1800s …

Boban Docevski

The elite warrior class known as the samurai ruled Japan for almost 700 years, from medieval times to their demise during the Meiji Restoration of 1868. They left an indelible mark on the country’s history and culture.

In Japanese, they were referred to as Bushi, which has roughly been translated to “those who serve in close attendance to the nobility.”

Samurai emerged as provincial warriors and rose to power in the 12th century with the beginning of Japan’s first military dictatorship, known as the shogunate.

Samurai wearing kusari katabira (chain armor jackets) and kusari zunin (chain armor hoods) with hachi gane (forehead protectors).

Samurai wearing kusari katabira (chain armor jackets) and kusari zunin (chain armor hoods) with hachi gane (forehead protectors).

 

1890s photo showing a variety of armor and weapons typically used by samurai

The 1890s photo showing a variety of armor and weapons typically used by samurai

The noble warriors were often associated with clans and their Lord and were trained as officers in military tactics and grand strategy.

Samurai followed a code of honors known as bushidō, meaning “the way of the warrior.” Bushidō was a set of rules informed by Zen Buddhism and Confucianism; its teaching emphasized loyalty, fearlessness, discipline, and general kindness.

“The notion that Zen is somehow related to Japanese culture in general, and bushido in particular, is familiar to Western students of Zen through the writings of D. T. Suzuki, no doubt the single most important figure in the spread of Zen in the West.”

 

Hand-coloured lantern slide. Japanese samurai Photo credit

Hand-coloured lantern slide. Japanese samurai Photo credit

Being aristocrats for centuries, samurai had their own culture that in a way influenced Japanese culture as a whole.

Monochrome ink painting, rock gardens, poetry, and tea ceremonies were some of the activities that were adopted by the warrior class throughout the centuries.

Original 19th century albumen photograph of a Japanese Samurai in armor

Original 19th century albumen photograph of a Japanese Samurai in armor

 

Photograph. Donated by Doctor J. Johnsson 1925.

Photograph. Donated by Doctor J. Johnsson 1925.

 

Photographs of Japanese officials in Nagasaki 1868

Photographs of Japanese officials in Nagasaki 1868

 

Photographs of Samurai in Nagasaki 1868

Photographs of Samurai in Nagasaki 1868

 

Portrait of Sōsuke Henmi (1843-1894)

Portrait of Sōsuke Henmi (1843-1894)

 

samurai-1900

samurai-1900

 

Samurai-around-the-1860s

Samurai-around-the-1860s

 

Samurai in armor, 1860s. Hand-coloured photograph by Felice Beato.

Samurai in armor, 1860s. Hand-coloured photograph by Felice Beato.

 

Samurai of the Satsuma clan, during the Boshin War period, circa 1867. Hand-colored Photograph by Felice Beato

Samurai of the Satsuma clan, during the Boshin War period, circa 1867. Hand-colored Photograph by Felice Beato

 

samurai-portrait

samurai-portrait

 

samurai-with-sword-ca-1860

samurai-with-sword-ca-1860

 

yamaoka-tesshu-was-a-famous-samurai-of-the-bakumatsu-period

yamaoka-tesshu-was-a-famous-samurai-of-the-bakumatsu-period

Samurai dominated the Japanese society and government until the Meiji Restoration of 1868.

Led to the abolition of the feudal system. In 1873, Emperor Meiji abolished the samurai’s rights and privileges to be the only armed force.

Replaced them with a more western-style conscripted army in 1873.