The original e-mail I received claims that this (and other) photographs are in the "never-before-seen" category, and admittedly, after 20+ years of surfing the web and 40+ years of reading books and magazines, I've not seem this before.
As mentioned... I have a few more photos similar in scope (rarity) and will distribute them soon enough.
The photo above is supposed to be one taken pre-1868 and purports to be the last-known photograph of samurai warriors before they were ordered to cut their hair—cut off the chonmage (chon-mah-gay)... their ponytail that would be folded up onto the back of their head, with the front of the head often shorn.
I grew a pony-tail during my second-year as an AET (assistant English teacher) in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken. My Ohtawara Board of Education office thought my hair style was cool, and unlike other AETs who maybe had hair past their collar, I was never asked to cut it.
I had a very progressive bunch of bosses and co-workers... and I would be lying to you if I didn't suggest that my non-normal Japanese hair style - especially when I let it free of the hair band to pile down past my shoulder blades... well... let's just say that my hair helped level the playing field (and then some), relative to a few of those really handsome bastard New Zealanders who worked as bartenders in my city, or other foreigners who spoke and understood Japanese like a native.
My hair got me laid.
I'm betting a samurai's hair also helped get him laid, as it denoted a societal position in feudal Japan.
I know my hair got me laid. I grew it even longer when I arrived back home in Toronto... when freed of the hairband then, my hair would curl up in wavy curls making me look like a way more butch cowardly lion from the Wizard of Oz movie.
However, I will admit that in Canada, my hair worked to my advantage with far better results with the women of the seedier adult entertainment fields than it did whilst I sat in a regular bar. I did more drinking in a regular bar. I dated women from strip joints and the such. Not being an a$$hole also helped. And being in wicked shape.
It's been nine years since I cut my hair to get the job I am currently in, so I suppose it was worth it. It looked good... but I'm sure a guy my age would look ridiculous with it about now.
Anyhow... cool photo of the samurai, isn't it? I wonder just how much they hated having to cut their hair.