Byvery few Japanese would have been particularly frightened of samurai, even samurai as backwards as Katsumoto's band, nor would they have bowed en masse. Duty, privileges and, at the same time, a life of hardships, fear of disgrace, loyalty and devotion to suzerain shaped the fate of a samurai.
Katsumoto is impressed by the courage Algren showed in the battle against the samurai troopers. The Japanese very rarely referred to themselves as a collective, particularly on cultural matters, as early as Understanding life as a sacred gift is one of the possible ways to explain this quotation.
Only against the Mongolscan they be considered protectors of Japan ; it's highly unlikely that Katsumoto's clan was in one place that entire time; very few samurai clans survived the century-long civil war c and most of those were relocated in the late s.
As a result, deep philosophical and ethical-aesthetical crisis is a background of our time, in which, though, a plenty of masterpieces are created. Perhaps it's too much to expect that our entertainments have a factual basis.
The notion that the samurai have been "protectors of the nation" for nine hundred or a thousand years and Katsumoto uses both figures is absurd: the samurai began as rent collectors and estate protectors for the Kyoto nobility, and evolved into an aristocracy in their own right.
Though the rebellion is tactically innovative, the rebels are limited by their adherence to traditional weapons and are obliterated by modern military technology. Thus, Algren decides to repay Katsumoto by saving him. However, relatively soon Algren realizes that he is being treated as neither an enemy, nor guest, but a strange guest.
One criticism I found levelled at the film is that once again the "white man" saves the savages. From the opening voiceover and title to the final scene, The Last Samurai is an historical disaster.
Even allowing for Algren's remarkable immersion in Japanese language and culture, the likelihood is pretty small that he'd have run across the Japanese term for "President" in a rural samurai village, but that doesn't stop him from understanding the term when it comes up in a crisis.