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The Last Samurai (2003)

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Philip Bramble
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The Last Samurai (2003)

I am not here to give my opinion about the film (who cares what I think?) but rather to provide some ideas on how to use the film in the high school classroom.

Social Studies Questions

  1. Compare and contrast the following movie characters/historical figures: Nathan Algren/Jules Brunet, Katsumoto Moritsugu/Saigo Takamori, Mr. Omura/Okubo Toshimichi, and the cinematic Emperor Meiji with the real Emperor Meiji.
  2. Compare and contrast the events in the film with the historical Satsuma Rebellion.
  3. List the Japanese habits Nathan acquires while he stays in the village.
  4. Give two examples of how private conversations are at odds with public form.
  5. Identify the traditional arts and activities Nathan sees while he is at the village.
  6. What does Nobutada mean when he refers to “no mind”?  How does that relate to martial arts?
  7. In what ways has Japan modernized itself in the film?
  8. What is Japan’s plan to resist Western colonization?
  9. What is the significance of the army soldiers who bow before the dead Katsumoto?
  10. At the end of the film, the emperor gives a short speech on how Japan will integrate Western technology into Japanese society.  What does he say?