Although the 1890s saw a reaction against the onslaught of Western influence, naturalists argued in favor of the best that was Japanese, but they did so in a thoroughly Western frame of reference and could identify little of exclusive value aside from the physical beauties of Japan, especially Mt. Fuji. Thus, Japan came to be under western influence.
Due in part to the western influence, Japan has received many effects, both good and bad. In the same way that various cultural influence has helped countries such as the United States to gain perspective and broader its horizons, so has western influence helped to expand the cultural viewpoints of Japan.
Also, western influence has opened the minds of the Japanese people, allowing them to accept new ideas and concepts. Some of these ideas include music, movies and even fashion. Perhaps it is due to western influence that the country of Japan possesses the technological importance that it holds today.
However, despite the many positive effects of western influence on Japan, negative effects have also surfaced.
Although western influence did broaden Japanese horizons, it destroyed a good portion of the countries individuality. Keep in mind that the Japanese possessed a fairly unique culture, and the loss of that culture is a great blow to the individuality of the world. Also, with the following of the new ways, the Japanese people may easily have forgotten their traditional ways.
This is what the Samurai tried to prevent. They did not want Japan to lose the focus of the past, and all of the things that had allowed the country to come so far and stay in power for so long.
The Samurai were deeply rooted in tradition, and perhaps this dedication to tradition is shown more than anything else throughout the film. However, at the same time, we must be careful that we do not come to rely too heavily on tradition, this will lead to failure in the same manner that forgetting the lessons of the past eventually will.
The culture of Japan, like the culture of any country has become varied over time. Change is a never a bad thing, in fact, it has helped the country of Japan to become the diverse and varied place that it is today. Although the process of change can, itself, often be painful, if one does not change, and if nations do not adapt and evolve in the modern world, they will not be able to remain either influential or even relevant.
Although the relative extinction of the Samurai is a difficult feat to watch, perhaps we can watch it knowing that this extinction paved the way for the modern world, and even in doing so, taught the world that there are always things worth fighting for, and that change and betterment should involve forgetting the past, no matter how great or how important that change may one day be.