The Last Samurai

Photographs and Text by Brent Stirton

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This feature is about what remains today of the Samurai arts, keystone of a proud dynasty which ruled over Japan for centuries. The legacy of the Samurai now largely manifests in a few remaining traditional dojos and masters spread far across Japan, a fading phenomenon in an ever-modernizing land. This project attempts to identify these masters and their students and the significance of the Samurai value system in their version of today’s Japan. The masters depicted in this series can trace their legacy back many centuries, some as far back as the fifteen hundreds. Their knowledge is closely guarded and in either passed from father to son or from master to closest student in an unbroken line. Family scrolls remain an elegant repository for this knowledge and technique. The true Samurai way is not sport, rather it is a constantly honed series of techniques designed to make up the perfect warrior. Ironically, the majority of interest now comes from the outside, with thousands of Gaijin foreigners either travelling to Japan to learn at the feet of the few remaining masters or learning from dojo’s started in their own countries, with the Bushido knowledge coming at them from second or third hand pseudo masters. Samurai remains a legendary part of Japanese culture, globally appropriated by Hollywood and the west, but in reality now the province of only the most dedicated in its land of origin.