'A Group of Samurai', circa 1890. (The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)
Two Japanese archers take aim at a target, circa 1897. (Buyenlarge/Getty Images)
A staged version of the Japanese ritual suicide known as Seppuku or Hara-Kiri, circa 1885. (Sean Sexton/Getty Images)
Portrait of a group of Samurai and Japanese officers looking at a map. (Alinari Archives/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
(l) “Samurai waking style”, circa 1890.; (r) Samurai in traditional dress characterized by a wide bamboo hat. (Library of Congress/Getty Images)
(l) Portrait of Japanese samurai, circa 1877; (r) Samurai or retainer kneeling before government official or daimyo, circa 1877 (Library of Congress)
(l) Samurai in armor from Labor and Porcelain in Japan, by the United States Consul-General, Yokohama circa 1882; (r) Hand-colored albumen photograph of samurai, circa 1880. (Getty Images)
(l)Hand-Color photograph of a Japanese samurai warrior by Franz von Stillfried-Ratenicz circa 1881; (r) Samurai warrior, half-length studio portrait, facing front, wearing armor and holding a sword, circa 1877. (Getty Images/Library of Congress)
Once elite warriors, the samurai of feudal Japan began to fade from the upper echelon of the military in the mid-1800s when the country’s armed forces began to modernize. Colorized photographs, a new technology at the time, give us a window into that period when the samurai were a dying breed of soldier.
This transition began when Emperor Meiji ordered sweeping changes across the country to transform Japan’s armed forces into a modernized, Western-style army. As the once-revered warriors fell from their ranks and were no longer able to don a sword in public, they were forced to find power in other influential positions like business or government jobs.
Take a look at these rare photos, taken between 1862 and 1900, that capture the twilight years of Japan’s samurai. The images were captured in black and white, then hand-painted with colors by artists.