Soldiers fencing, Japan, 1863-1864.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Engraving from 'Zhivopisnaia Iaponiia', (St Petersburg, 1870), a Russian translation of 'Le Japon illustree' ('Japan illustrated'), (Paris, 1870) by Swiss diplomat Aime Humbert (1819-1900) who spent two years in Japan from 1863 to 1864. Humbert surveyed all aspects of Japanese cultural life including physical activities. The combat illustrated here would later be transformed into modern martial arts such as Kendo. As Envoy Extraordinary Minister Plenipotentiary for Switzerland, Humbert travelled to areas inaccessible to the ordinary person. The text discusses Japanese life and customs before the influence of foreign powers; the engravings are based on sketches and photographs done while en route.