Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.

A Group of Samurai in front of Egypt’s Sphinx; ca. 1863

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A group of thirty four samurai were sent by the Japanese government to France at the end of Edo era. At the time, all the ports of Japan were closed, cutting it off from the rest of the world.

The mission’s aim was to persuade France to agree to the closing of the port of Yokohama to foreign trade, and allow Japan to retreat into isolation once more. The mission inevitably failed. In 1864, en route to Paris, the Ikeda mission visited Egypt. The stay was memorialized in one of nineteenth-century photography’s most extraordinary images — the embassy’s members, dressed in winged kamishimo costume and jingasa hats, carrying their feared long (katana) and short (wakizashi) swords, standing before the Giza Sphinx.

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