January 27, 2014

Photo of "female samurai" offers sound lesson for not believing everything you see on the internet

As I was browsing my Tumblr feed over the weekend, I came across something cool. That actually happens on a regular basis on Tumblr - it's an addicting site! Anyway, I spotted what was labeled as a rare photo of a female samurai. Just look how impressive:
An onna-bugeisha who is not only dressed in fantastic armor but also has flowers in her hair?! She's the sort of character we love to find in history books. Excited as I was and even though ladies like this might have existed (and probably did - take a big enough sample and you'll find a bit of everything), I had suspicions about the authenticity of the picture. Being skeptical will help you survive the barrage of information on the interwebs.

I tried a Google image search which led me to a post stating the anonymous photo above was indeed a female warrior. Interesting, but I still wasn't sold. Further digging led me to a Reddit post and a comment that pinpointed the photo's origin: it's part of a group of portraits for sale, specifically "Portraits of Japanese Kabuki actors and geisha. 1870s." The photographer is unknown. You can view one listing for the photos here.

The awesome rare photo of a female samurai is actually a portrait of an actor. Furthermore, women were banned from participating in kabuki plays at the time of the photo, so it's possible the photo is of a guy dressed as a female warrior.  Now, that assessment could also be false, but that was where the trail ended for me. It was yet another lesson for me to not take everything I see on the internet as truth. Google is your friend.

UPDATE 1/29: I tried to search for a definitive answer based on a comment below. I looked at several of photos of Kabuki actors from the period, did several searches, and an hour later I can't prove if the photo is a samurai or an actor. If anyone has the history, I'm happy to hear it!

h/t Tumblr


  1. I wonder what prompted that kind of photo shoot in the 1870s?

    1. Hmm, I wonder if actors had headshots back then?

  2. This is still pretty awesome. Obviously too modern, but I could see something like this being great fodder for a story.

  3. Here's a little something that MIGHT shed some light: https://www.facebook.com/theSarge00/posts/10202692815232746?comment_id=6845031&offset=0&total_comments=1&notif_t=feed_comment

    1. For those who don't want to follow it - a friend saw me post this pic on FB with the admonition that it could be either/or...my friend is a woman in Japan, and she was able to ID the crest on the armor to a clan whose men got wiped out and the women had to take up arms. She also couldn't find anything about an actor in the armor. So...further possible facts about the pic.

    2. Interesting! This is exactly the sort of research I would have loved to seen from the people who circulated the photo. Thanks for sharing!

    3. Something to keep in mind though: the war she referenced, the Genpei war, happened in the 12th century (1180–1185) and the world's first photograph wasn't taken until the 1800s (http://photography.nationalgeographic.com/wallpaper/photography/photos/milestones-photography/niepce-first-photo/). I know samurai were still around then but just something else to think about.

  4. اهم شركات كشف تسربات المياه بالدمام كذلك معرض اهم شركة مكافحة حشرات بالدمام والخبر والجبيل والخبر والاحساء والقطيف كذكل شركة تنظيف خزانات بجدة وتنظيف بجدة ومكافحة الحشرات بالخبر وكشف تسربات المياه بالجبيل والقطيف والخبر والدمام
    شركة تنظيف خزانات بجدة
    شركة مكافحة حشرات بالدمام
    شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالدمام

  5. اهم شركات نقل العفش والاثاث بالدمام والخبر والجبيل اولقطيف والاحساء والرياض وجدة ومكة المدينة المنورة والخرج والطائف وخميس مشيط وبجدة افضل شركة نقل عفش بجدة نعرضها مجموعة الفا لنقل العفش بمكة والخرج والقصيم والطائف وتبوك وخميس مشيط ونجران وجيزان وبريدة والمدينة المنورة وينبع افضل شركات نقل الاثاث بالجبيل والطائف وخميس مشيط وبريدة وعنيزو وابها ونجران المدينة وينبع تبوك والقصيم الخرج حفر الباطن والظهران
    شركة نقل عفش بالرياض
    شركة نقل عفش بالطائف
    شركة نقل عفش بالدمام
    شركة نقل عفش بجدة
    شركة نقل عفش بمكة
    شركة نقل عفش بالمدينة المنورة
    شركة نقل عفش بينبع
    شركة نقل عفش بالخرج
    شركة نقل عفش بالقصيم


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