It is March, and St. Patrick’s Day is this month,
Welcome to another addition of “Historical Inaccuracies”! Today I’ll be discussing The Last Samurai starring Tom Cruise and Ken Watanabe and directed by Edward Zwick (Legends of the Fall, Blood Diamond).
- The Japanese thwarted Western culture for centuries after seeing the suffering of China under Western influence. They blocked advances from Russian and English forces but in 1854 they submitted to signing the Treaty of Kanagawa opening up trade with America. In response to the unfair treatment of the contract, the Japanese did hire foreign correspondents, mostly French and not American’s as is Tom Cruise’s position as a character.
- Ken Watanabe plays a character based on real-life military leader Saigo Takamori who committed suicide by seppuku (self-disembowelment) after defeat, not killed by Gatling gun fire.
- The emperor never faced Americans and denied the treaty, he was much too important to have out in public.
- The armor featured in the film is outdated, by this time the soldiers had become inundated to Western culture and gave up certain traditions. Many wore uniforms of the French and English. The real Saigo Takamori lead the final battle in a French officer’s uniform.
- On an American note, the flag is featured with 43 stars which it did not have until 1891
- Japanese soldiers are seen using cap lock muskets which must be reloaded after a single shot, they are shown firing multiple shots before reloading (I know this happens in all movies, but at least those guns usually do fire more than one shot before having to be reloaded).
- Teaching an American the way of the samurai was very unlikely. Bushido was still fairly new and it was designed to protect the emperor and unify against Western culture.