I watched The Last Samurai last night / this morning. I usually cringe at anything with Tom Cruise in it, but whenever he didn’t speak too much, I felt he put up a decent performance. [Potential spoilers ahead, depending on how you see it]
So it was as I expected – white man attacks ‘savages’; white man befriends the enemy who turns out to be quite human; white man fights alongside new allies and almost singlehandedly convinces the Meiji emperor to change his mind … Put aside everything they’ve taught you in History class. Which self-respecting Samurai would spare a crazed little Yankee in battle just to learn more about his enemy?
The Japanese cast were commendable, though I couldn’t help but think the chief Samurai’s son looked a little too much like Legolas for comfort. Long hair? Check. Arrows? Check. Youthful complexion? Check. All you had to do was dye him blonde!
After the show, my mother told me about her great-grandmother, whose father was a famous businessman who exchanged poetry with the Meiji emperor himself (this news is still sinking in for me). During the Russo-Japanese war in the early 1900’s, my great-great-great grandfather donated a submarine to the Japanese army, so I suppose that helped strengthen the relationship.
Anyway things worked out well for our family’s existence, because during World War 2 the army entered my great-great grandmother’s home (in Japan, I think) and saw the poem from the Emperor. They bowed and made sure she was well taken care of (while my more recent ancestors down in Singapore were sweating it out, Lim Bo Seng-style). Unfortunately, the poem in question went missing after she moved house, and has never been found. Or so we hear.
Like the movie suggested: never forget your roots. I guess one day we should put in some time to uncover more of our intriguing family history.