Shoshazan Engyoji – The Last Samurai: Part 3 of 3

Having finally arrived in Engyoji Temple; sitting right atop Mount Shosha, we spent the night in the Temple, getting a feel of what the way-of-life was back then.
Shoshazan Engyoji
There were many books in the library, filled with many tales of old.
Scriptures in Engyoji Temple
Among them was the story which became the plot for the movie: The Last Samurai – the movie was inspired by the 1877 Satsuma Rebellion led by Saigo Takamori, and on the westernization of Japan by colonial powers.
The meditation hall
Through meditation and other activities plus the deep feeling of Zen that Shoshazan Engyoji exudes, we were taken back in time.
…The time of the Samurai.
Fudo myoo
Which brings to mind a movie that left me deep impressions, etched forever in my memory.
I would like to share with you…
The lost Tale of:
The Last Samurai
The Last Samurai was a 2003 American/Japanese epic war film set in the feudal period of Japan, the era of the Samurai.
This is where the final epic battle in the film was shot!
The film starred Tom Cruise, as well as Ken Watanabe, Hiroyuki Sanada, and many more talented actors. 
This is where The Last Samurai was filmed
If you’ve watch the movie, you’ll know where this is!
The film begins in the summer of 1876, introducing Tom Cruise as: Captain Nathan Algren, a disenchanted ex-United States Army captain and an alcoholic, who is traumatized by his experience fighting in the Civil War and the Indian Wars.
In the years following his army service, Captain Algren made his living by relating war stories to gun show audiences in San Francisco, an experience which further hampered his mental state.
Fed up with the Captain’s perpetual drunkenness, his employer fires him, forcing Algren to accept an invitation by his former commanding officer Colonel Bagley, whom Algren deeply hates.
Algren hates and blames the Colonel for his horrifying nightmares, after his role in the massacring of Indians.
Colonel Bagley eventually approached him with an offer on behalf of a Japanese businessman, Mr. Omura, to help the new Meiji Restoration government train the new Western-style Imperial Japanese Army.
Also assisting them is Algren’s old army comrade; Sergeant Zebulon Gant and Simon Graham, a British translator with a deep interest in the Samurai.
Magnificent view from the Ropeway
Under the command of Colonel Bagley, Captain Algren and his companions travel to Japan..
Japan is in the middle of drastic civil change, and the new Western-style additions to society have not gone unopposed. The Samurai are conducting an armed insurrection against the modernization campaign, and it is for the purpose of suppressing this insurrection that Algren is called to Japan. 
The newly-formed Japanese Army is a poorly-trained and equipped conscripted army of peasants totally lacking in combat experience. 
Captain Algren does his best to remedy this, but before the men are trained to his satisfaction, the leader of the Samurai and insurrection; Lord Katsumoto – played by Ken Watanabe, attacks a railroad outside his province.
A truly beautiful piece of art
Colonel Bagley then orders Algren to lead the inexperienced soldiers to engage Katsumoto. 
Captain Algren protests and, in a demonstration, illustrates the army’s inexperience and inadequate training. Colonel Bagley dismisses Algren’s concerns and orders a regiment to track down and engage Lord Katsumoto.
When the regiment arrives at the battlefield, Colonel Bagley moved to the rear and ordered Algren to do the same, since the Americans are technically non-combatants. Captain Algren refused and took personal command of the regiment instead.
Captain Algren then ordered Sergeant Gant to report to the rear as well, but Gant refused out of personal loyalty to Algren. During the battle, the conscripted peasants soldiers panic despite the Captain’s best efforts to keep them under control.
Tiles from the original roof of the temple
Samurai swarm the wholly unprepared army and the soldiers flee in disarray. Captain Algren and Sergeant Gant stand their ground and manage to kill several Samurai, but Gant is killed whilst Algren was thrown from his horse.
On foot, Algren desperately fends off several Samurai with a broken spear embroidered with a flag depicting a white Tiger. The flag on the spear reminded Lord Katsumoto of a vision he experienced during meditation. 
Katsumoto’s brother-in-law, the red-masked Samurai: Hirotaro – who killed Gant earlier, prepares to finish Algren as well, but Algren seizes a spear from the ground and stabs him through the throat.
Believing what he has witnessed to be an omen, Katsumoto prevents his warriors finishing off the wounded Captain Algren and takes him prisoner.
Algren is then taken to an isolated village, where he gradually recovers in a house belonging to Hirotaro’s family, including his widow Taka, her two sons, Higen and Magojiro, and Lord Katsumoto’s son, Nobutada.
Over time, Algren overcame both his alcoholism and the nightmares of his traumatic past, and begins to assimilate to village life, although he does not adopt many Japanese customs. Eventually, he was granted audience with Lord Katsumoto, who took an interest in the Captain and they began conversing daily, each gaining a healthy respect for the other. 
Algren confides to his journal that he has never felt entirely at peace until he came among Katsumoto and his people. 
Do you recognize this scene?
Despite lingering fidelity to Hirotaro, Taka starts to develop romantic feelings for Algren, particularly when she notices his budding fatherly relationship toward her children.
Or, how about this one?
Algren then studies swordsmanship under skilled sword master Ujio; portrayed wonderfully by Hiroyuki Sanada and becomes fluent in Japanese by conversing with the local residents, eventually earning their respect.
Simply being here, felt like a dream come true
One night, as Katsumoto parodies the comical role in an open-air traditional festival performance, the carefree respite is interrupted by an attack of Ninja assassins. 
Algren then raises the alarm and then took up a sword, to help the village defend.
The Samurai succeed in defeating the ninjas, but with many losses. Though Lord Katsumoto doesn’t confirm it, Algren deduces that the attack was ordered by Mr. Omura.
Come next spring, Algren was taken back to Tokyo – led by Lord Katsumoto & the Samurai.
In Tokyo, they exchanged their farewells and both went their separate ways.
There in Tokyo, Algren learns that the army, under Colonel Bagley’s command, is now better organized and outfitted with Howitzers and Gatling guns from the United States. Mr. Omura, attempting to bribe Algren, offered to place him in command of the army under the condition: only if he agrees to crush the Samurai rebellion.
Due to his newfound respect and loyalty to the Samurai, Algren declines, thereby offending Mr. Omura.
Soon after, in private: Omura orders his men to kill Algren if he attempts to warn Katsumoto of their intentions. At the same time, Katsumoto offered his counsel to the young Emperor Meiji, to whom he was once a teacher.
He then learns that the Emperor’s hold upon the throne is much weaker than he thought, and that he is essentially a puppet of Mr. Omura.
When Katsumoto refused to observe new laws that forbade Samurai to publicly carry swords, he was arrested and confined to his quarters in Tokyo. 
Anticipating an assassination attempt on Lord Katsumoto, Algren headed directly for Katsumoto’s quarters to rescue him, but was ambushed by Omura’s men.
A hallway in Engyoji Temple
Algren narrowly escapes death through use of the skills he learned in Katsumoto’s camp. With the assistance of Ujio, Nobutada, Nakao, the Silent Samurai, and Graham, Algren frees Katsumoto from custody. 
During their flight, Nobutada is mortally wounded and stays behind to aid his father’s escape; Algren looks on as a mortally wounded Nobutada charged their foes, only to be cut down by gun fire.
Lord Katsumoto, still mourning the loss of his son when he receives word that a large Imperial Army unit, commanded by Mr. Omura and Colonel Bagley, is marching out to engage the Samurai. 
A counter-force of Samurai, numbering only about 500, is rallied.
Algren made a reference to the Battle of Thermopylae in which a small army of 300 Greeks fought against a much larger opposing force of 1 million Persians by using the terrain and the enemy’s overconfidence to their advantage
The experience here makes one view life differently..
Algren then surmises that a similar tactic would reduce the effectiveness of their enemy’s artillery. 
On the eve of battle, Algren was eventually presented with a Katana of his own.
Taka also gives him her dead husband’s armor and they shared a last kiss; just before Algren leaves.
When the Imperial Army confronts the Samurai rebel forces, the Samurai retreated back to higher ground, a battle tactic used that prevented the Imperial soldiers from using their superior firepower.
As expected, Mr. Omura immediately orders the infantry to advance. Colonel Bagley expresses misgivings and advises sending in scouting groups first to assess the area, but Omura overrules him and insists on a full attack, and thus the infantry marched straight into a trap.
Setting blocking fires to cut the enemy’s immediate fighting strength in half, the Samurai then unleash volleys of arrows on the infantrymen.
A wave of Samurai swordsmen; Lord Katsumoto and Algren among them, attack the disorganized waves of soldiers before they can recover from the arrow attack. A second wave of Imperial infantry follows behind, only to be countered by Samurai cavalry, and a savage melee ensues that leaves many dead on both sides before the Imperial soldiers finally retreat.
Engyoji Temple is like a treasure chest, hidden but filled with relics and treasures
Realizing that fresh Imperial forces are coming and that defeat is inevitable should a second battle occur, the surviving Samurai resolved to make a final, fate-charged mounted assault.
During the final assault, Colonel Bagley shoots Katsumoto in the shoulder, but before he can finish off the Samurai Lord, Algren hurled his sword at Bagley, finally killing him by spearing him through the chest.
On approaching the Imperial rear line and progressing far enough to scare Mr. Omura, the Samurai were finally cut down by Gatling gun fire.
Moved by the sight of the dying Samurai, who charged fearlessly despite the Imperial soldiers’ superior firepower; the current Captain of the Imperial troops – who was originally trained by Captain Algren, ordered the Gatling guns to cease fire, against Mr. Omura’s wishes.
Lord Katsumoto, observing Bushido practice then asks Algren to assist him in performing seppuku; Algren obeys, ending Katsumoto’s life.
The many statues here, guard the route up this mountain
Led by their current Captain, the Imperial soldiers show their still-lingering respect for the old order by kneeling and bowing before the fallen Samurai.
Hard at work…??
Later, as the American ambassador prepares to have Emperor Meiji sign a treaty that would give the U.S.A exclusive rights to sell firearms to the Japanese government, a badly injured Algren showed up and offered Katsumoto’s sword as a gift to the Emperor. 
The Gardens of Heaven
The young Emperor finally understands the message and realizes that “while Japan must modernize, it also must never forget its own history, cultural identity, and traditions.” 
Emperor Meiji then tells the American ambassador that his treaty is not in the best interests of Japan. Naturally, Mr. Omura objected. The Emperor, realizing that he need not be ruled by Omura, confiscates his estates and fortunes.
When Mr. Omura tried to protest, the Emperor then offered him Lord Katsumoto’s sword, retorting that if the dishonor is too great to bear, he should commit Seppuku.
The cowardly but respectful Omura merely lowered his head and walked away.
The film soon came to an end with Nathan Algren, under a narrative provided by Simon Graham showing Algren, returning to the Samurai village and back into Taka’s arms. 
Graham philosophically concludes that Algren has “found some small measure of peace that we all seek, and few of us ever find”.
Mount Shoshazan ropeway
Nathan Algren
Tom Cruise played the role Captain Nathan Algren, a Civil War and Indian Wars veteran haunted by the massacre of Native American civilians at the Washita River.
Algren was born in the British Empire, but he traveled to the USA after being denied service as a Red coat in the British army during the Crimean War, being seen as unworthy to serve the crown because of his rebellious reputation back home in England and since then he became a naturalized American. 
Following a dismissal from his job, he agrees to help the new Meiji Restoration government train its first Western-style conscript army for a hefty sum.
During the army’s first battle, he is captured by the Samurai: Lord Katsumoto and taken to the village of Katsumoto’s son, where he soon becomes intrigued with the way of the Samurai and decides to join them in their cause.
His journal entries reveals his impressions about traditional Japanese culture, which almost immediately evolve to admiration.
Moritsugu Katsumoto
Ken Watanabe was given the role of a Samurai Lord & Leader: Moritsugu Katsumoto, a warrior-poet who was once Emperor Meiji’s most-trusted teacher. 
He is displeased with Mr. Omura’s bureaucratic reform policies, which leads him into organizing a revolt against the Imperial Army.
Taka, the sister of Katsumoto and the wife of the red-masked Samurai – Hirotaro, whom Nathan Algren killed earlier. She has two sons, both of whom grew close to Algren.
Hiroyuki Sanada (one of my favorite actors) played Ujio, one of the most dedicated, loyal and fierce samurai under Katsumoto. He teaches Algren the art of Samurai sword fighting, none too gently and even disliked him but eventually grew to respect him. 
He was one of the remaining Samurai to die in the final charge in the last battle.
Nobutada is the son of Katsumoto: lord of the village that the Samurai are encamped in and befriends Captain Algren.

Katsumoto advised Nobutada to teach Algren in the Japanese way – Japanese culture and Japanese language. 
Colonel Bagley
Colonel Bagley was Captain Algren’s commanding officer in the 7th Cavalry Regiment who was to train the Imperial Army. 
Algren despises Colonel Bagley for his role in the Washita River massacre of the Native Americans that Algren cannot get over.
In a flashback, Bagley was seen murdering children and women in the Indian camp.
Omura, an industrialist and pro-reform politician who dislikes the old Samurai and Shogun related lifestyle. He quickly imports westernization and modernization while making money for himself through his railroads. Coming from a merchant family that was like many repressed during the days of Samurai rule and cause for his extreme dislike for their nobility, he assumes a great deal of power during the Meiji Restoration and takes advantages of Emperor Meiji’s youth to become his chief adviser – wielding power similar to those of the Shoguns. 
Emperor Meiji
Emperor Meiji – He is credited with the implementation of the 1868 Meiji Restoration, the Emperor is eager to import Western ideas and practices to modernize and empower Japan to become a strong nation. His appearance in this movie bears a strong resemblance to Emperor Meiji during the 1860s. 
After Captain Algren offered him Lord Katsumoto’s sword, Emperor Meiji realizes that even though Japan must modernize, it can’t forget its own history and should chart its own path.
Simon Graham
Simon Graham, a British interpreter for Captain Algren and his non-English speaking soldiers. 
Initially portrayed as a typical practical-minded Englishman, he later comes to understand the Samurai cause.
Come sunrise, we made our way down Mount Shosha – the very same way we came up.
After our pilgrimage…
Passing by familiar structures like the Bell of Compassion, Deva Gate, Engyoji Temple and the Mitsunodo and eventually the Maniden; not forgetting the many Kannon Statues that lined our pathway, we eventually reached the Shosazan ropeway – The first sign of civilization.
Exhausted but feeling refreshed at the same time, we left for home with a little something. 
Something we didn’t realize we were lacking before we came.
Feeling refreshed & recharged, life took on a whole new meaning…
It was a wonderful experience, something definitely different and kind of changed the way I now look at life.
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O-bento time!
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The rest of the pictures taken, below.
Links to Part 1 & Part 2 can be found below.
Please feel free to click if you’re interested!
This finally concludes the 3 part series on Shoshazan Engyoji.
We certainly hope you’ve enjoyed this post and found it useful!
Thanks for reading!

About Joshua Hideki

Hi! I'm Hideki. You can call me Josh! ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ Welcome!!~ This is a Travel Blog covering Japan, and many other bits & pieces of my personal life. Photography, Blogging, Fashion & Traveling in Style. A travel guide for everyone with these passions. Absorb the mesmerizing atmosphere, take in amazing sights & let the enchanting ambiance take you away as you embrace different cultures & see the world through my eyes - my Eternal Memories. Visit my Blog at: ! Come discover Japan from the inside with me and also we'll provide you with the best destinations to visit; and that includes the rest of the World too! Please enjoy! Discover Japan & Travel the World with me!! Life is precious, you only have one so live it to the fullest!

2 thoughts on “Shoshazan Engyoji – The Last Samurai: Part 3 of 3

  1. Heather Vickers

    Why are you wearing the most offensive symbol in the world? Are you a Nazi, or just a fan of their work? Utterly ridiculous.

    • its just a print on a shirt and its entirely my choice on how i choose to dress. dont look at it or bother to read my page if it offends you. oh, and you know what? Heil Hitler!!

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