Recently a photograph from 1980 of a Western tourist made the rounds on Reddit and other corners of the Internet. The man had paid to take the photo wearing samurai armor. I shared it on J-List’s X and Facebook accounts and it generated some interesting discussion and criticism from our customers. Let’s meet the first documented weeb in history in this blog post!
The First Weeb in History Takes a Photo Wearing Samurai Armor
The photo shows a Western man wearing samurai armor, complete with dual swords. Other than an old Flikr post stating that it was taken in 1890, we know nothing more about the photo.
But who is he? Considering that all the embarrassing things I did back in the 1980s are blessedly not recorded for all time on the Internet, you can imagine that information from 1890 is not that easy to call up in a casual Google search. I assumed the chances of finding out something about him were essentially zero.
I’ve got a friend who is an expert on historical photos of Japan. He said, “I don’t think the chance of finding who the man in the photo is is really zero. If there’s one photo of him, there are likely more. But it would require lots of time to research and a reasonable amount of luck.”
Was the man affiliated with Jacob S. Rogers, a successful steam locomotive manufacturer who started collecting Japanese armor and swords, which are now part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art? Or could he have been employed by Bashford Dean, another famous collector of samurai armor from the late 19th century? Unfortunately, there’s no way to know for sure.
One thing we can be pretty sure of is that he had to be wealthy, as it was no small feat to travel to Japan before our modern era. By the time the above photo was taken, the samurai were already gone, officially retired by an edict of the Meiji government in 1871 as the country modernized. For the man, it must have been something like visiting the American “Old West” in the decades after it had been tamed.
Would a Japanese Be Offended by a Westerner Wearing Samurai Armor?
Some silly people on the Internet would likely chide this man for “cultural appropriation” because wearing a kimono or other kind of traditional Japanese dress supposedly represents stealing Japan’s culture. Usually, people who go out of their way to get offended on behalf of minority groups like this are extremely privileged themselves.
For the record, not a single Japanese person in Japan feels this way. Instead, they’re happy to see anyone take an interest in their country and culture, even if they might smirk behind your back if you dress up in ridiculous-looking samurai armor like the man in the photo. When a Japanese person meets an overly enthusiastic Japanophile, such as the character Beatrix from the excellent ZOM 100 zombie anime, they’d be extremely happy and touched, and virtually no one would feel that someone is “stealing” their culture by paying it homage. All they ask is that foreigners follow the rules and act politely when visiting Japan.
What Did J-List Customers Think About This Image?
He should have known the armor wouldn’t flatter him or his manhood.
This image is so cringe and damaging that I would spit in his face, then kick him while sipping some tea because of how stupid he is by handling the katana.
The way he leans on the katana as if it were a British infantry sword, damaging the tip. Ugh.
I love the way J-Listers take the piss out of their passions.
He’s even got the sandals, bro. This guy is a boss.
Does that also make him the first cosplayer?
He has that look on his face like his wife put him up to it.
Thanks for reading this post about the first recorded weeb in history wearing samurai armor in the 19th century. What do you think of this guy? Would you pose for a photograph wearing armor like this?
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