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The Last Samurai and the All Blacks

151 years ago, at the dawn of the Meiji Restoration, having admitted defeat the Shonai Clan were expecting a harsh punishment, such as the forfeiture of land, a large fine, or the sending of troops and officials to other parts of the country, to be dealt to them at the hands of Kuroda Kiyotaka, a Meiji government official.

Well, as it so happens, the punishment, if you want to call it that, was that the former soldiers of the Shonai Clan were to reclaim the land in the surrounding hills. That’s right. No giving up land, no fines, just the tough job of reclaiming the land. The idea being that by reclaiming the land, growing mulberries, breeding silkworms, and establishing a silk industry in the area, that the former clan soldiers could contribute to the development of the country.

So that’s what they did.

This idea came about by Suge Sanehide, a former Shonai Clan Samurai, and Saigo Takamori, the true last Samurai. Saigo Takamori had clout within the Meiji government, and it was thanks to his support that the Shonai Clan was dealt such lenient treatment.

This series of events reminded me of a certain 2007 Rugby World Cup in which the All Blacks lost at the quarterfinals to France (thanks to a clearly-forward pass that was not picked up, but would be if today’s rules were to be followed).

Alas, we were knocked out and knocked down. And you would expect the coaching staff at this stage to get the sack, but no. The NZ Rugby Football Union (?) trusted Sir Graeme Henry so much that they kept him in his position as head coach, and what would you know, NZ won the next world cup.

When that much belief and that much drive is seen, trust in your ideas can bring great success. Saigo Takamori saw the potential in the defeated Shonai Clan. The NZRFU saw the potential in the defeated All Blacks’ coach. And it all worked out well in the end! I guess it goes to show that you should never, ever, write someone off.

Tim Bunting Kiwi Yamabushi


Hi, I’m Tim Bunting AKA the Kiwi Yamabushi, a New Zealander who became a Yamabushi Ascetic in the Dewa Sanzan mountains of north Japan. I’m part of the Yamabushido team, and we host life-altering Yamabushi training on the Dewa Sanzan (website link). People come to us for the ultimate mindfulness experience, to reach the next level, or simply connect with nature and themselves.

I’m on a mission to summit all 100 Famous Mountains of Yamagata Prefecture to spread the splendour of this fabulous location, and in dedication to all those who lost their lives out in nature, including my father.

On my daily blog I post thoughts of a practicing Yamabushi that I hope people can use to better themselves and live as fulfilling a life as possible.

Sign up to the weekly Mountains of Wisdom newsletter, follow me on social (Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, TikTok, Clubhouse, all @kiwiyamabushi), or send me an email via the link below to stay in touch.



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All photos my own. Contact for more. 

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