Shogun (novel)

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Shogun is a 1975 novel written by James Clavell .

The historical model for the novel was based on the experiences of the English navigator William Adams , who reached the coast of Japan in 1600 in the service of a Dutch trade expedition and died as a samurai in 1620 . The princes Toranaga and Ishido also had historical models: Tokugawa Ieyasu and Ishida Mitsunari . The novel is part of the six-part Asia series by James Clavell. It also includes the novels The Rat King , Tai Pan , Gai Jin , Noble House Hong Kong and Cyclone .


The English seafarer John Blackthorne and the rest of his crew reached Japan after an accident in foreign waters controlled by the hostile Portuguese. Here Blackthorne has to find his way in a world completely alien to him and also gets caught up in the intrigue between Ishido and Toranaga, two of the most powerful princes ( daimyō ) in the country. Toranaga becomes his patron and his advisor Mariko forms a romantic relationship across social and religious rifts, while she makes Blackthorne understand the peculiarities of Japan.

Prince Toranaga, lord of the Kwanto plain, finds himself in a seemingly hopeless situation: All the important Japanese princes are allied against him, so his army would face a triple superiority in the event of an apparently inevitable war. A desperation shot is hopeless because Toranagas half-brother, the Daimyo Zataki, Lord of between Yedo and Osaka located Shinano province and an important part, openly suggests the on the side of his enemies to be overcome distance. To make matters worse, Toranaga is forced by an imperial decree to go almost defenseless into the lion's den. But it is not for nothing that he has the reputation of being one of the wisest statesmen. Blackthorne, Protestant Englishman and talented skipper of a powerful ship, is the means to put pressure on the Jesuits , an important force in Japan. The courtesans Kiku and Gyoko provide Toranaga with the information necessary to get Zataki back on his side. Through her death, Mariko succeeds in breaking the opposing alliance. With this, the great goal for Toranaga is attainable - he becomes Shogun .


English / Dutch seafarers

  • Navigator John Blackthorne / Anjin-San
    Before the length problem was solved , the navigator was the most important man on the ship. His earnings were greater than the captain's, and he had a great say on board. John Blackthorne makes ample use of it and is the actual commander of the Erasmus. In Japanese captivity, too, he received privileged treatment and the opportunity to ascend in Japanese society. Due to the difficulty of the Japanese in pronouncing his name, he is called Anjin, the word means something like "navigator, pilot ".
    Historical role model: William Adams
  • Captain Spillbergen, Johann Vinck (historical role model: Jan Joosten ), Crooq, Maetsukker, Pieterzoon
    Crew members of John Blackthorne on the Erasmus .


  • Father Martin Alvito / Tsukku-San
    From an early age, Father Alvito's heart beats for the Catholic Church. He grew up in Japan, speaks the language perfectly and is the official interpreter of the Regency Council. He initially perceived the appearance of the Protestant intruder Blackthorne as a personal threat. Also because of the language problem, he is called Tsukku-San, which means something like "interpreter", since he serves as a translator for the high daimyos, mainly for Toranaga. Alvito is strictly religious, but not fanatical. He is just as much a businessman as a priest and has prevented Blackthorne from being murdered by other Portuguese on several occasions, as he is under Toranaga's threats of being expelled if Blackthorne dies at the hands of a Portuguese.
    Historical role model: João Rodrigues
  • Vasco Rodrigues,
    the navigator of the Portuguese treasure ship Nao del Trato, is torn between his job and his fraternization with Blackthorne, a political enemy, but at least a colleague in a profession with its own rules.
  • Prior Carlo del'Aqua
    Father Visitator and Head of the Jesuit Order in Japan.
    Historical role model: Alessandro Valignano
  • Captain Ferriera
    Captain of the black ship that is supposed to bring the income from the Portuguese provinces to Europe. He is a fanatical Catholic who wants to burn the "heretic" Blackthorne, which also leads to a power struggle with Alvito, which he ultimately loses and pays dearly: When there is an argument between his and Alvito's men, his helmsman is shot by the samurai .
  • Father Sebastio
    Jesuit Father in Anjiro, who is not particularly popular with the Japanese because of his poor knowledge of Japanese and because of his fanaticism. The first non-Japanese Blackthorne met. Describes Blackthorne as a heretic and pirate before Kasigi Yabu.
  • Brother Michael

Toranaga and his followers

  • Yoshi Toranaga
    Chairman of the Council of Regency , Lord of the Kwanto (of the eight provinces), who secretly seeks the Shogunate, patron of Navigator John Blackthorne.
    Historical model: Tokugawa Ieyasu
  • Toda Mariko The
    wife of Toda Buntaro, Japanese Christian and interpreter, who forges a secret love affair with John Blackthorne.
    Historical model: Hosokawa Gracia
  • Toda Buntaro
    son of Toda Hiro Matsu.
    Historical model: Hosokawa Tadaoki
  • Toda Hiro-Matsu
    Also called iron fist , supreme general of Yoshi Toranaga. He is the only one who, due to his long loyalty to Toranaga, expresses his thoughts openly (and sometimes rude by local standards). Although he asks immediately afterwards to commit seppuku, Toranaga is grateful for both his honesty and devotion.
    Historical model: Hosokawa Fujitaka
  • Fujiko
    wife of John Blackthorne on the orders of Yoshi Toranaga.
  • Kiku and Gyoko
    courtesan of Kasigi Omi and their Mama-san . According to the novel, Gyoko becomes the founder of the geisha class .
  • Kasigi Yabu
    Daimyo of Izu, vassal of Yoshi Toranaga. He considers betraying Toranaga, is ultimately forced to do so by Ishido under threat of death and then ordered by Toranaga to commit seppuku .
  • Kasigi Omi
    nephew and henchman of Kasigi Yabu, responsible for Anjiro, the village in which John Blackthorne is stranded. Despite his youth (he is 21 and one of the youngest people to act), he is a clever strategist and advisor valued by Yabu and Toranaga.
  • Mura, the village mayor. Outwardly looks like a farmer or villager, but in reality is a samurai and spy of the Jesuits in Yabu's ranks. In the end it turns out that he is a double agent and his real Mr. Toranaga.
  • Ueki-Ya, the gardener.
  • Kiritsubo and Satsuko, wives of Toranaga.
  • Uraga noh Tadamasa
    Former brother Joseph, the samurai was excommunicated from the church by Father Martin Alvito and then a follower of John Blackthorne. Dies shortly after entering his service from an arrow shot from the darkness, so it is never clear whether Ishido's people or the Jesuits are behind this.

Ishido and his allies

  • Ishido Kazunari
    Member of the Council of Regency, Lord of Osaka, adversary of Yoshi Toranaga.
    Historical role model: Ishida Mitsunari
  • Kiyama
    member of the Council of Regency. He is one of the two Christian daimyos on the Council of Regency.
  • Onoshi
    member of the Council of Regency . He is the other Christian daimyo on the Council of Regency. But that doesn't mean that Kijama and Onoshi are fond of each other. On the contrary, both are spider enemies. Onoshi suffers from leprosy and has little time left.
  • Sugiyama
    member of the Council of Regency. He was also used there by the taiko. Kiyama, Onoshi and he agree that Toranaga could most likely succeed in becoming the sole ruler by force. To prevent this from happening, they are ready to form an alliance with Ishido.
  • Ito Teruzumi
    member of the Council of Regency , but as such only a puppet of Ishidos. He takes the place of Toranaga after his resignation.
  • Zataki
    half-brother of Yoshi Toranaga. After the violent death of Sugiyama, he takes his place. He is madly in love with Lady Ochiba, and like her he is filled with a deep hatred for Toranaga.
  • Ochiba
    The concubine of the late Taiko and mother of his only son, the underage Kwampaku Yaemon, which has given her a great influence in the empire. She hates Toranaga dearly and uses her influence to intrigue against him. That makes her a close ally of Ishido.
    Historical model: Yodo-dono


The book was listed at number 1 on the Spiegel bestseller list for a week in 1976 .


Shogun was filmed in 1980 as a four-part television series. In 1989 it was implemented as a computer game .