Samurai served many functions in old Japan. However, the role in which they are best known is that of warrior. The samurai were well-trained, highly skilled warrior, they were members of an elite class, considered superior to common citizens and ordinary foot soldiers.
Samurai followed a code of honor called bushido, informed by Confucianism and Zen Buddhism. Bushido emphasized martial fearlessness, discipline and loyalty, as well as general kindness. Below are some hand-colored photos that capture samurai in the final days, were made in the years after Japan finally opened it ports to international trade. With the 1868 Meiji Restoration and the end of feudalism, carrying swords was prohibited to all but the new national armed forces.