A Strong Contender For The Most Bad-Ass Photo Ever Taken

Oh look, it's just a bunch of real samurai, chilling out with their katanas in front of the Sphinx. No big deal.

Yesterday we looked at the bizarre occasion a gang of 19th-century baseball players threw baseballs at the Sphinx. Today — thanks to a tip from io9 reader Alexander — we turn back the clock to 1864, when a group of Japanese emissaries on a diplomatic mission to Europe posed for a photo in Giza, decked out in their full samurai regalia. Explains archaeologist Nicholas Reeves of the Metropolitan Museum of Art of this shot by photographer Antonio Beato:

A Strong Contender For The Most Bad-Ass Photo Ever Taken

[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 memorialised 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.

Or to rephrase this — in case the awesomeness of this picture hasn't somehow sunk in yet — you only see samurai hanging out at the Sphinx in glitchy arcade games in the dustier corners of dollar movie theaters. And guess what? Reality has popped in the quarter. The only photograph that could possibly trump this is a shot of a bunch of drunk cowboys from the 1800s with giant mustaches who fell asleep on a schooner and woke up on Easter Island.