Is the Shogun series inspired by a true story?

The new Shōgun series is a success, as much for its production, its acting as its story: but is the historical drama based on a true story?

Written by James Clavell and published in 1975, Shōgun quickly became one of the best-selling books of its decade. And who says literary success, says adaptation. The novel is not its first transcription on the small screen, since another series had seen the light of day in 1980. If this essay had been well received, it however seems that a new adversary is on the verge of attacking it. steal the show.

Already considered the new Game of Thrones by unanimous critics, Shōgun has been breaking records since the broadcast of its first two episodes. In France, it is on Disney+ that the FX series not recommended for those under 18 is available, and the public is snapping it up. The intrigues between power-hungry samurai and foreigners wishing to take over Japan’s trade route work to perfection.

The success of Shōgun probably comes from the attention to detail of its creators, who wanted to offer the most authentic historical drama possible. The Japanese language is perfectly respected, and we are told about incidents that really took place… but then, is the Shōgun series based on real events?

Is the Shōgun series inspired by a true story?

Yes, Shōgun is inspired by a true story, with author James Clavell using documents about the life and adventures of pilot William Adams as a starting point for his story. However, the series takes up historical events in a very free manner, not hesitating to leave plenty of room for fiction.

In September 1980, while promoting the first adaptation of Shōgun for the small screen, James Clavell told the Evening Independent that he had been inspired by a single line in a history textbook belonging to his child, which mentioned that “In 1600, an Englishman went to Japan and became a Samurai.”

The man in question was William Adams, born in Gillingham in the south-east of England in 1564. From a young age he worked on merchant ships, before joining the English Navy, eventually serving of pilot.

In April 1600, the ship he served on ran into trouble, was blown off course, and ended up being the first European ship to reach the shores of Japan. Adams was captured and interrogated, and so impressed local leaders with his nautical knowledge that he became the shogun’s confidant.

According to Brittanica, Adams then oversaw the construction of ships in a Western style, wrote letters on behalf of the shogun encouraging Dutch and English traders to come to Japan, and then acted as an intermediary between the shogunate and traders who began visiting the country.

When he was refused return to England, Adams settled in Japan, married a local woman, and helped establish a trading post for the British East India Company. William Adams subsequently fell ill, and died at Hirado in 1620, finally being buried in Japan.

But through the book Shōgun by James Clavell – as well as the series adaptations – a version of his story endures over time.

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