In the twilight of his life, Motonari, the chief of the Mori clan and one of the greatest strategists of his time, called his three sons together. He took three arrows from a quiver and gave one arrow to each of them. He told them to go ahead and break them right in half. The three bamboo shafts bent and broke easily in the sons’ samurai hands. The father took out a new set of three arrows and tied them together with a bit of straw. He handed the bundle to one of his sons and ordered him to break it. But despite all his efforts, the bamboo shafts did not yield to him, even when he tried to break them over his knee. The bundle of arrows went from hand to hand, from the eldest brother to the youngest, without any of them being able to break it.

The sons were crestfallen at their failure, but the clan chief gave a mocking little laugh and had the following to say:

“I hope you won’t forget this little lesson. If you remain united, our clan will survive, but if you become divided, it will perish.”