The movie “The last samurai” featuring Tom Cruise has been acclaimed as one of his best performances as well as a tremendous and moving depiction of traditional Japanese societies at the end of an era. It tells the story of an American military officer who is captured by the samurai Lord and who ends up spending an entire year in their village, slowly becoming one of them. The almost idyllic vision of this traditional society’s place in contrast with the aggressive pursuit of all things modern by the Japanese Emperor and government. In a poignant scene, the traditional hair bun of a young samurai is violently cut off by a Japanese police officer dressed in Western clothing. The entire movie captures the sorrowful and deliberate destruction of an ancient way of living, sacrificed on the altar of modernity, yet with a ray of hope.
The current state of Japan, with an extremely low birthrate that threatens the very survival of the country and reveals a profound existential crisis, should be considered against the backdrop of this accelerated and arguably aggressive removal of traditional forms.