Over the years there have been many great images of the Great Sphinx and Pyramids in Egypt, but this 1864 photo by Antonio Beato may be the best ever. Now over 150 years old, it shows a diplomatic mission from Japan dressed in full samurai regalia – swords and all – standing in front of the Great Sphinx.
The Second Japanese Embassy to Europe, also called the Ikeda Mission, was sent on December 29, 1863 by the Tokugawa shogunate. The head of the mission was Ikeda Nagaoki, governor of small villages of Ibara, Bitchū Province (Okayama Prefecture). The assistant head of the mission was Kawazu Sukekuni.
The objective of the mission was to obtain French agreement to the closure of the harbour of Yokohama to foreign trade. The mission was sent following the 1863 “Order to expel barbarians” enacted by Emperor Kōmei, and the Bombardment of Shimonoseki incidents, in a wish to close again the country to Western influence, and return to sakoku status. The task proved impossible, as Yokohama was the center of foreign presence in Japan since the opening of the country by Commodore Perry in 1854.
On the way to France, the mission visited Egypt, where the members of the mission were photographed posing before the Sphinx by Antonio Beato, brother of the famous photographer Felice Beato. The members of the mission were abundantly photographed in Paris by Nadar.
The mission returned to Japan in failure, on July 22, 1864.
Fantastic image of an amazing location – right up there in my list of favourites with this 1920 photograph of two elegant ladies viewing an Egyptian sunset from the top of the Great Pyramid.