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Samurai were the warrior class of Japan for hundreds of years. However, under Emperor Meiji, the Samurai lost their right to be armed in public and lost much of their military power.

The Samurai were officially in decline by the late 1800’s. Photography was just coming to Japan in its early forms during this time period and the decline of the Samurai were documented by several photographers in both black and white and hand colored photographs.

Many former Samurai and their families continued to hold some influence, but it was through the establishment of businesses, newspapers, and government jobs, not military might.

The following photographs capture the last decades of the final generation of true Samurai.

Hand-Colour photograph of a Japanese Samurai warrior by Franz von Stillfried-Ratenicz. Dated 1881. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

Hand-Colour photograph of a Japanese Samurai warrior by Franz von Stillfried-Ratenicz. Dated 1881. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

Japanese samurai warriors, 1900. (Photo by Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

Japanese samurai warriors, 1900. (Photo by Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

Japanese samurai, aristocratic warriors in the service of a lord, circa 1865. (Photo by Felice Beato/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Japanese samurai, aristocratic warriors in the service of a lord, circa 1865. (Photo by Felice Beato/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Two Japanese samurai in fire dress, circa 1865. The one on the left wears a jingasa hat, and the one on the right wears the traditional indigo tabi socks of the samurai firefighter. (Photo by Felice Beato/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Two Japanese samurai in fire dress, circa 1865. The one on the left wears a jingasa hat, and the one on the right wears the traditional indigo tabi socks of the samurai firefighter. (Photo by Felice Beato/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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A Japanese samurai in traditional dress.   (Photo by Felice Beato/Getty Images)

A Japanese samurai in traditional dress. (Photo by Felice Beato/Getty Images)

circa 1867:  A Japanese soldier armed with a sword.  (Photo by Felice Beato/Henry Guttmann/Getty Images)

circa 1867: A Japanese soldier armed with a sword. (Photo by Felice Beato/Henry Guttmann/Getty Images)

1867: A Samurai warrior in armour. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

1867: A Samurai warrior in armour. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Photographic print of a Samurai warrior wearing armor and holding a sword. Dated 1877 Photo by: (Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty images)

Photographic print of a Samurai warrior wearing armor and holding a sword. Dated 1877 Photo by: (Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty images)

circa  1880: A Japanese Samurai warrior. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

circa 1880: A Japanese Samurai warrior. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Three samurai warriors in armour, circa 1880. (Photo by Kusakabe Kimbei/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Three samurai warriors in armour, circa 1880. (Photo by Kusakabe Kimbei/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

A samurai in armour, Japan, 1882. A photograph from Labor and Porcelain in Japan, by the United States Consul-General, Yokohama, 1882. (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)

A samurai in armour, Japan, 1882. A photograph from Labor and Porcelain in Japan, by the United States Consul-General, Yokohama, 1882. (Photo by The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)

'K. K. Mission nach Ost-Asien und Süd-Amerika ' Japan.  'Ein Daimio in Kriegsrüstung '. About 1870. Photograph by Wilhelm Burger. (Photo by Imagno/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***

‘K. K. Mission nach Ost-Asien und Süd-Amerika ‘ Japan. ‘Ein Daimio in Kriegsrüstung ‘. About 1870. Photograph by Wilhelm Burger. (Photo by Imagno/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***

1860's photo of a Japanese Samurai. (Photo by Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

1860’s photo of a Japanese Samurai. (Photo by Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

Japanese Samurai warrior, Vintage photograph from japan 1867. (Photo by Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

Japanese Samurai warrior, Vintage photograph from japan 1867. (Photo by Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

Japanese Samurai warrior, Vintage photograph from japan, 1867. (Photo by Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

Japanese Samurai warrior, Vintage photograph from japan, 1867. (Photo by Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

Photographic portrait of a female Samurai. Dated 1800. (Photo by Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

Photographic portrait of a female Samurai. Dated 1800. (Photo by Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

Felice Beato; portrait of a Japanese samurai, in traditional dress. 1863-68. (Photo by Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

Felice Beato; portrait of a Japanese samurai, in traditional dress. 1863-68. (Photo by Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

But this article would not be complete with the true “Last Samurai”… Tom Cruise.

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