Shogun: Fact & Fiction

Hallmark Channel is rerunning the 1980 miniseries SHOGUN. Japanese history is something I’ve always wanted to learn more about but haven’t (it’s difficult to find a really good starting book).

I know that the “real” John Blackthorne was Will Adams, who served Tokugawa (Toranaga in the novel) and was instrumental in his wars against Ishida (Ishido in the novel). What are the major differences twixt history and fiction, however, that caused Clavell to change the names?

Actually, I don’t think he was particularly instrumental in his wars ( Tokugawa didn’t need a lot of help in that department ). He functioned more as a trade advisor. And he did help build a couple of western-style ships.

Maybe he just felt uncomfortable embellishing detail and guessing ( if intelligently ) at motive and inner dialogue with historical figures and decided to change the names for his own comfort or as a gesture of respect. I probably wouldn’t have - historical fiction is historical fiction. But I can kinda see the impulse.

  • Tamerlane

If you can find it, I recommend Henry D. Smith’s Learning from Shogun: Japanese History and Western Fantasy. It’s a group of essays that go into quite a bit of detail into the historical and cultural (in)accuracies in Shogun.