Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Saturday, January 11, 2020

The Real "Last Samurai"

The movie, The Last Samurai, was based on actual events. Below is an excerpt from an article that appeared at All That's Interesting. It wasn't an American. It was a Frenchman named Jules Brunet. The full article may be read here.

Jules Brunet was sent to Japan to train the country's soldiers in Western tactics. He wound up staying in order to aid the samurai in a battle against Imperialists trying to further Westernize the country. 

Not many people know the true story of The Last Samurai, the sweeping Tom Cruise epic of 2003. His character, the noble Captain Algren, was actually largely based on a real person: the French officer Jules Brunet.
Brunet was sent to Japan to train soldiers on how to use modern weapons and tactics. He later chose to stay and fight alongside the Tokugawa samurai in their resistance against Emperor Meiji and his move to modernize Japan. But how much of this reality is represented in the blockbuster?

The True Story Of The The Last Samurai: The Boshin War

Japan of the 19th century was an isolated nation. Contact with foreigners was largely suppressed. But everything changed in 1853 when American naval commander Matthew Perry appeared in Tokyo’s harbor with a fleet of modern ships. 

For the first time ever, Japan was forced to open itself up to the outside world. The Japanese then signed a treaty with the U.S. the following year, the Kanagawa Treaty, which allowed American vessels to dock in two Japanese harbors. The U.S. also established a consul in Shimoda.
The event was a shock to Japan and consequently split its nation on whether it should modernize with the rest of the world or remain traditional. Thus followed the Boshin War of 1868-1869, also known as the Japanese Revolution, which was the bloody result of this split.
On one side was Japan’s Meiji Emperor, backed by powerful figures who sought to Westernize Japan and revive the emperor’s power. On the opposing side was the Tokugawa Shogunate, a continuation of the military dictatorship comprised of elite samurai which had ruled Japan since 1192.

Although the Tokugawa shogun, or leader, Yoshinobu, agreed to return power to the emperor, the peaceful transition turned violent when the Emperor was convinced to issue a decree that dissolved the Tokugawa house instead.
The Tokugawa shogun protested which naturally resulted in war. As it happens, the 30-year-old French military veteran Jules Brunet was already in Japan when this war broke out. 

Jules Brunet’s Role In The True Story Of The Last Samurai

Born on Jan. 2, 1838 in Belfort, France, Jules Brunet followed a military career specializing in artillery. He first saw combat during the French intervention in Mexico from 1862 to 1864 where he was awarded the Légion d’honneur — the highest French military honor.
Then, in 1867, Japan’s Tokugawa Shogunate requested help from Napoleon III’s Second French Empire in modernizing their armies. Brunet was sent as the artillery expert alongside a team of other French military advisors.
The group was to train the shogunate’s new troops on how to use modern weapons and tactics. Unfortunately for them, a civil war would break out just a year later between the shogunate and the imperial government.
On Jan. 27, 1868 Brunet and Captain André Cazeneuve — another French military advisor in Japan 
— accompanied the shogun and his troops on a march to Japan’s capital city of Kyoto.

The shogun’s army was to deliver a stern letter to the Emperor to reverse his decision to strip the Tokugawa shogunate, or the longstanding elite, of their titles and lands.
However, the army was not allowed to pass and troops of the Satsuma and Choshu feudal lords — who were the influence behind the Emperor’s decree — were ordered to fire.
Thus began the first conflict of the Boshin War known as The Battle of Toba-Fushimi. Although the shogun’s forces had 15,000 men to the Satsuma-Choshu’s 5,000, they had one critical flaw: equipment. 

While most of the imperial forces were armed with modern weapons such as rifles, howitzers, and Gatling guns, many of the shogunate’s soldiers were still armed with outdated weapons such as swords and pikes, as was the samurai custom.
The battle lasted for four days, but was a decisive victory for the imperial troops, leading many Japanese feudal lords to switch sides from the shogun to the emperor. Brunet and the Shogunate’s Admiral Enomoto Takeaki fled north to the capital city of Edo (modern-day Tokyo) on the warship Fujisan.


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