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To better understand Tom Cruise’s interview which follows, and “The Last Samurai” movie, it’s important to understand the dramatic changes that were taking place in Japan in 1876, when Captain Nathan Algren, a veteran of the Civil War and the Indian Wars, and friends, are hired by the Japanese Emporer to modernize Japan’s army.

As Tom will tell you, the more you know about Japan, it’s history and culture, the more you will appreciate the movie, and understand and respect the Japanese people today:

For over 700 YEARS, from the Kamakura period, which began at the end of the twelfth century, to the close of the Edo period in the latter half of the nineteenth century, Japan was ruled by Samurai, or warrior class. Order broke down around the middle of the fifteenth century, and Japan was torn by civil warfare for nearly 100 years as Samurai lords of different domains fought one another. The age of pacification and national unity began with Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

At the beginning of the seventeenth century, after the death of Hideyoshi, Tokugawa Ieyasu became Shogun, and set up a government in Edo (now Tokyo), and the Edo period began. During this time, the Emporer was merely a figurehead, with no real power. The Tokugawa regime adopted an isolationist policy that lasted for more than 200 years, cutting off trade with all countries except China and the Netherlands, who were allowed only to enter the port of Nagasaki. But with the arrival of American Commodore Matthew Perry and his “black ships”, (modern steamships never before seen in Japan) in 1853 and again in 1854, the Tokugawa government was forced to open a number of ports for international trade. However, that trade remained very limited until 1868.

After hundreds of years, the anti-Tokugawa feelings were growing among certain people, who were demanding the restoration of imperial power and had anti-western feelings, especially among ultra-conservative Samurai in increasingly independently acting domains such as Choshu and Satsuma. Other people, however, soon recognized the big advantages of the Western nations in science and military, and favored a complete opening to the world. Finally, even the conservatives were forced to recognize this fact after being confronted with Western might in several incidents.

In 1867-68, the Tokugawa government fell because of heavy political pressure, and peacefully turned the power of government back to Emporer Meiji. When Tom Cruise as Captain Algren arrives in Japan, it is Emporer Meiji that he meets, and Katsumoto would most likely have been a Samurai of the Tokugawa Clan….

Now, you are prepared, so on to the interview and enjoy the movie……. / Issue 51 - September 2018
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