Discover the scenery and adventures that played the location to The Last Samurai and kept cast and crew captivated on their days off.
When Taranaki became Japan for the making of The Last Samurai, the landscape and cultural attributes of the region were a major talking point for the film’s cast and crew. Tom Cruise renewed his passion for surfing and horse riding, while Billy Connolly went fishing, explored art galleries and revealed all at the local sun club.
Much of the filming centered on the hillsides of the Uruti Valley, which was remodelled slightly to imitate Japanese rural life in the 1860s. Mount Taranaki, New Zealand’s most-climbed mountain, turned on a stunning performance as Mount Fujiyama.
Pukekura Park stepped in for the Imperial Army Parade area and Palace. The park includes two lakes (one of which has wooden rowboats for hire) a children's playground, cricket ground, fernery and display houses, kiosk, fountain and waterfall, historic band rotunda and an entertainment venue - the Bowl of Brooklands.
The horse and battle scenes were filmed at Lake Mangamahoe – a lake surrounded by dense forest, with several walk options to lookouts out over the city.
If you want to get your adrenalin up to a higher level than a walk while visiting Taranaki there are a range of options at hand! Go dam dropping on the Waingongoro River or take a helicopter flight over the crater of Mount Taranaki.
A Japanese fishing village was built at Port Taranaki for the film – just to be burnt down as a part of the movie! The buildings may no longer be there, but the spot is clearly visible from the port.
Two sports feature prominently in Taranaki - surfing and trout fishing. ‘Surf Highway 45’ is a self-drive route that takes in 105 kilometres of excellent breaks along the coast. You can fish off Port Taranaki or for fly fishing enthusiasts, the rivers and lakes of Taranaki are home to rainbow and brown trout.
With eight Maori tribes living in the region, Taranaki is also a great place to dip into New Zealand’s indigenous culture. Several of the Maori experiences on offer blend adventure with ancient practices. For example, you can paddle a 12-metre waka (Maori canoe) then ride a Suzuki quad bike through native bush. Another popular tour explores tracks on the slopes of Mount Taranaki, taking you to secret locations known only to Maori. The trip ends with a downhill cycle blast through bush and farmland.
To discover the aesthetic side of Maori life, visitors can visit the workshops and studios of artists. Displays of customary and contemporary carving, ta moko (traditional tattoo) and weaving are often followed by a traditional hangi (earth oven) feast.