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Who is “The Last Samurai”? 22 September 2019, Asakusa & Ueno Park

Who is “The Last Samurai”? 22 September 2019, Asakusa & Ueno Park

We were delighted to welcome 35 guests from Bangladesh, Indonesia, USA, Pakistan, Germany and Australia in 3 tours of that day. 30 guests in Asakusa AM and PM tours and 5 guests in Ueno Park tour. The weather of the day was very fine in the morning but it started to rain in the afternoon. Usually Sunday tours get fewer number of guests than this. This time is different due to Rugby World Cup Japan.

Asakusa AM and PM tours

Ueno Park Tour

Japan hosts Rugby World Cup this autumn and will host Olympics next year. More than a century ago no one could imagine how Japan would become so international that it would host such big international events . The man who was the model of the statue in Ueno Park which is the last spot of the tour, could not, either. That is the statue of SAIGO Takamori, who was a samurai in Satsuma domain (currently Kagoshima prefecture) and later became a military official in late 19th century.

SAIGO was a model character for a samurai named Katsumoto in Hollywood film”The Last Samurai” (2003) in which Tom Cruise starred. As depicted in the film he was regarded as once contributor of Japan’s modernization but later treated as traitor provoking rebellious acts against new modern government in the beginning of Meiji Restoration period when Japan was eager to learn from West and abolish feudal system. He defected from the new government comprising of progressive former samurai elites and then led the rebellion force with his samurai comrades who lost privilege by social reform imposed by the new government.

He actually wished Japan would prosper like western nations but not lose minds of traditional Japanese. The new government in his eyes seemed gone too far westernized and losing spirits of traditional Japanese. Then he formed rebellious war against the new government which possessed highly sophisticated weapons so his force had lost. At last he committed suicide in the battle field by stabbing his stomach following Samurai custom, known as Harakiri.

Later the statue was erected to tribute to his patriotism and restore his honor. Japan’s modernization was a struggle of how the nation retains tradition while acquiring foreign things. This struggle still goes on in our minds.

Being a guide of our holding tours is a great opportunity to think about this issue. By explaining things about Japan and discussing the difference from our guests, we ourselves learn what we are more deeply than usual.

We are always grateful for your participation. Please come and join us!

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Posted by Masa