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A section from

‘A Jedi shall not know hatred, nor fear… nor love.’ from Star Wars Episode II

AMAZON (USA)

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Shogun - James Clavell

 

He did not look back at her because there was no need. He knew that he had left all his life’s passion, and everything that he had adored, at her feet. He was sure he would never know passion again, the spirit-joining of ecstasy that ignited man and woman. But this did not displease him. On the contrary, he thought with a newfound alacrity. Now nothing binds me. Now I can be patient too. I’m twenty-one, and I’ve a world to conquer.

 

Japan 1600 CE. After years under military dictatorship, Japan is in political turmoil. The death of the dictator - Nakamura leaves behind a power vacuum. A council of regents rule the land in the name of the Nakamura’s son and appointed heir. The council intends to hold on to power by maintaining the status quo. One of the five regents – Toranaga has other plans. Toranaga was at the forefront of previous wars in the former Shogunates (military dictatorships) and is viewed as a potential threat to the Council, mainly because Toranaga is the only regent capable of being Shogun. Toranaga however swears allegiance to the Council.

 

Politics is nothing without treachery and Toranaga soon realizes that he is slowly but surely being pushed into a corner by the Council.

 

John Blackthorne - pilot of Dutch trading vessel Eramus, finds himself shipwrecked in Japan in the middle of this political situation, and eventually as a prisoner of regional Samurai chiefs who are aligned with Toranaga. Adapting to his captor’s way of thinking, Blackthorne maneuvers himself into an advantageous position initially using the arms and ammunitions cargo onboard his vessel as a bargaining tool. Subsequently he works his way into Toranaga’s favour, piquing the warlord’s curiosity about European politics, ship-building and the cargo of arms.

 

Toranaga struggles with his adversaries for political power in the background of Japan’s martial and unforgiving culture. Toranaga is a wily political player, who patiently places himself in advantageous positions and at the same time manipulates everyone around him. However fickle loyalties play havoc with his plans, and the presence of the Englishman Blackthorne and his cargo of arms don’t simplify matters.

 

John Blackthorne finds himself more and more fascinated with all the strange ways of the Japanese. He must come to terms with a way of life which is at odds with almost everything he holds true and at the same time juggle between keeping his head on his shoulders and bowels intact. He realizes he needs all his wits around him if he is to beat the Japanese at their own game.  Complicating the situation is Blackthorne’s affection for Mariko – a woman married to Toranaga’s most ruthless warlord. Mariko is entrusted with guiding Blackthorne into the Japanese way of life as he becomes politically more important to both opposing Japanese factions.

 

Shogun is set in the time of fierce Empire-building by European nations before England had established naval mastery and was aligned with Holland but at odds with Catholic Spain and Portugal. This conflict is played out the novel between Protestant Blackthorne and Jesuit priests and pilots who have settled themselves in Japan years before Blackthorne.

 

The novel spans a period of six months before the ascension of Toranaga as Shogun.

 

The author James Clavell has styled most characters after real people. William Adams – the first Englishman in Japan is the inspiration for Blackthorne, while Tokugawa Ieyasu is Toranaga’s model.

 

William Adams is often referred to the first Englishman in Japan, or as the Englishman who went to Japan in the year 1600 and became a Samurai. Adams piloted a Dutch vessel – De Liefde and was shipwrecked in Japan. He never left Japan. Adams met Ieyasu Tokugawa and was asked about European politics, religion and navigation. He was  an advisor to Tokugawa but his true standing can only be speculated. Being foremost a businessman he resolved his earlier disputes with the Jesuits in favour of commercial dealings with them. He was known in Japan as Anjin-Sama or the pilot and subsequently took the surname of the town he based him self in – Miura. He died in 1620 leaving a Japanese wife and their two children, and a wife and daughter in England.

 

Much more information is forthcoming on Toranaga’s inspiration Tokugawa Ieyasu, whose dynasty’s reign of the Shogunate lasted over 250 years and brought forward sweeping changes to Japan’s social and commercial fabric. As a general of the former Warlord-dictator Hideyoshi, Tokugawa had deep insight into and vast experience in Japan’s martial culture. His ascension to Shogun marked the end of a long period of civil warfare and unrest in Japan. His rule also ushered in a period of isolation from most of the world with virtually all foreigners being banished from Japan and foreign travel for Japanese being banned.

 

At FactBehindFiction.com

-The Third Shogunate: Background of the politics on which ‘Shogun’ is based

-Hattari Hanzo: The Biography of a ninja in the service of Ieyasu Tokugawa

-NOBLE HOUSE: James Clavell

-GAI-JIN: James Clavell

 

References and further reading

1. Shogun by James Clavell

2. Learning from Shogun: Japanese History and Western Fantasy. Ed: Henry Smith

3. Wikipedia.org

4. World Book Encyclopedia

 

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Miscellaneous ‘Shogun’ Edition Covers.

Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543 - 1616) was the model for James Clavell’s Toranaga.

(Image: Wikipedia)

An illustration depicting William Adams meeting Shogun Tokugawa.

(Image: Wikipedia)

A monument to William Adams at the site of his house.

The text reads:

IN MEMORY OF

WILLIAM ADAMS, KNOWN AS MIURA ANJIN THE FIRST ENGLISHMAN TO SETTLE IN JAPAN. DOMINO AS PILOT ON BOARD THE CHARITY IN 1600 WHO RESIDED IN A MANSION BUILT ON THIS SPOT WHO INSTRUCTED IEYASU THE FIRST TOKUGAWA SHOGUN ON GUNNERY, GEOGRAPHY, MATHEMATICS ETC., AND CONSTRUCTED FOR HIM SEVERAL SHIPS ON THE EUROPEAN MODEL WHILE RENDERING VALUABLE SERVICES IN FOREIGN AFFAIRS, AND WHO MARRIED A JAPANESE LADY, MISS MAGOME AND DIED ON APRIL 24 1620, AT THE AGE OF FIFTY SEVEN YEARS.

BUILT BY SOME JAPANESE, MAY 1951

(Image: Wikipedia)

William Adams

(Image: Wikipedia)