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Thread: William Adams, first foreign samurai in Japan

  1. #1
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Post William Adams, first foreign samurai in Japan

    I have watched a documentary in French about William Adams (1564-1620), an English sailor travelling around the world, who became a key advisor to the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu and built for him Japan's first Western-style ships.

    He quickly learned Japanese language and adopted th local customs. His immense knowledge of navigation, ship-building, artillery, geography and other Western knowledge made him a precious ally for the Japanese.

    In order to convince him to stay in Japan, the Shogun raised him to the rank of samurai and hatamoto (samurai in the direct service), gave him a huge property (in Hemi, within the boundaries of present-day Yokosuka City), with 80 to 90 servants, and presented him with the most beautiful women of the court. Adams got a Japanese wife who gave him two children.

    As a former employee of the Dutch East India Company, he helped the establishment of this one in Japan, which is partly why the Netherlands was the only Western nation allowed to trade with Japan during the "closed country period" (sakoku).

    Here are some of his comments about Japan :

    Quote Originally Posted by William Adams
    The people of this Land of Japan are good of nature, curteous above measure, and valiant in war: their justice is severely executed without any partiality upon transgressors of the law. They are governed in great civility. I mean, not a land better governed in the world by civil policy. The people be very superstitious in their religion, and are of divers opinions.
    Adams' explanation about the religious ambitions of the Jesuits was also a determining reason for the persecution of the Christians in Japan, and the policy of closed country that ensued.

    After his death, his son, Miura Anjin, kept his title of samurai. Up to this day, the Miura Anjin Festival is held all day on August 10 in Itō, Shizuoka.

    Adams's memory is preserved in the naming of a district in Edo, Anjin-chō (today in Nihonbashi Muromachi 1-10-8, Tokyo), where he had a house and by an annual celebration on June 15 in his honour.
    Last edited by Maciamo; Dec 16, 2006 at 17:32.

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  2. #2
    ************ craftsman's Avatar
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    There's a very accessible book about his life in Japan called 'Samurai William: The Englishman Who Opened Japan' by Giles Milton. It manages to bring the stories alive and reads more like an adventure than a historical novel. And the odd picture or two.
    Last edited by craftsman; Dec 16, 2006 at 10:05.

  3. #3
    japႎ vagyok undrentide's Avatar
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    Just a small correction:
    “ú–{‹´Žº’¬ is Nihonbashi Muromachi
    All other “ú–{‹´~~’¬ is Nihonbashi XXcho, but somehow Žº’¬ is pronounced Muromachi.

    http://www.iijnet.or.jp/ynp/edo/edo10_02.html
    Photo of the stone to mark where the Anjin's house was.

    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    After his death, his son, Miura Anjin, kept his title of samurai. Up to this day, the Miura Anjin Festival is held all day on August 10 in Itō, Shizuoka.
    I think Muira Anjin is the Japanese name of William Adams himself.
    According to Wikipedia he was married to a Japanese called ‚¨á and it is said he had a son (Joseph) and a daughter (Susanna).
    I don't know whether Joseph also had a Japanese name (though it's very likely he had) and what was the name if he had one...

    edit: I found out that his son succeeded the name ŽO‰YˆÂj after his death.
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    The tv-serie Shogun, is based on his story!

    I enjoyed watching the serie, and I even bought the book (that I never started though).

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    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by undrentide View Post
    Just a small correction:
    “ú–{‹´Žº’¬ is Nihonbashi Muromachi
    All other “ú–{‹´~~’¬ is Nihonbashi XXcho, but somehow Žº’¬ is pronounced Muromachi.
    Oops, I admit copying the address from Wikipedia without thinking. I should have known better as I have llived and worked in the Nihombashi area myself. But well it was 1:30am when I wrote that article... I have corrected it on Wikipedia too.

    His house is between the Nihombashi and Edobashi bridges, near Mitsukoshi Nihombashi, isn't it ? I have passed near it dozens of times, but as I didn't know about his house I never paid attention.
    Last edited by Maciamo; Dec 16, 2006 at 18:10.

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    TAN Hiroyuki Nagashima's Avatar
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    William Adams is not the Japanese first foreign samurai.

  7. #7
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hiroyuki Nagashima View Post
    William Adams is not the Japanese first foreign samurai.
    So who is ? Maybe you meant that some Ainu became samurai before ?

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    Cute and Furry Ewok85's Avatar
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    I think he was the first "westerner" to be a samurai, I bet foreigners from closer countries beat Adams to the title well before he got here.

    I have a really good book about him somewhere, went into great detail about life for the members of the company at the time and what life was life through their diaries and memoirs. Was really, really fascinating.
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    Yasuke, an African from somewhere currently Mozambique, served to Oda Nobunaga, and he loyally fought againt the Honoji coup.
    So you can say he might be honored to be the first one.

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    TAN Hiroyuki Nagashima's Avatar
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    Yasuke is very famous.
    In 1581, he becomes an aide of Nobunaga.
    I explained it in the "History & Traditions" of here sometimes.

    There is not the Japanese who regards Ainu person as a foreigner.

  11. #11
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hiroyuki Nagashima View Post
    There is not the Japanese who regards Ainu person as a foreigner.
    Maybe not nowadays, but 400 years ago the Ainu were still seen as non-Japanese.

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    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pipokun View Post
    Yasuke, an African from somewhere currently Mozambique, served to Oda Nobunaga, and he loyally fought againt the Honoji coup.
    So you can say he might be honored to be the first one.
    If I am not mistaken, Yasuke was just Oda Nobunaga's bodyguard, and more a warrior than an actual lord with land and servants like William Adams. Yasuke only served Nobunaga for one year, until Nobunaga's death. After that he didn't retain any particular status, which seems to confirm that he did not actually belong to the samurai class.

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    tsuyaku o tsukete kudasai nurizeko's Avatar
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    Mac, grrr I looked him up on Wikipedia and nearly ended up readinh the entire history of Japan, I just cant trust myself to look at wikipedia in moderation.
    Grrrr

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    JREF Resident Alien Pachipro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dutch Baka
    The tv-serie Shogun, is based on his story!

    I enjoyed watching the serie, and I even bought the book (that I never started though).
    Yes. If I'm not mistaken, James Clavell based his character and story on William Adams. I think he is also buried in Yokohama.

    Dave you don't know what you are missing. The book is far, far better than the series. Although mostly fiction, the book is a wonderful read that, once started, cannot be put down and gives great insights into Japan and the Japanese way of thinking of the period that is still useful today. It may look like a tiring read, but you'll wish it was longer.

    Also, anyone know yet who the first foreign samurai was? It'd be interesting to read about it. Was it Yasuke as Nagashima-san mentioned?
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  15. #15
    Twirling dragon Maciamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pachipro View Post
    Also, anyone know yet who the first foreign samurai was? It'd be interesting to read about it. Was it Yasuke as Nagashima-san mentioned?
    Yasuke was a kind of mercenary, a paid warrior, not a lord with retainers and a hereditary title like the samurai. William Adams is considered to be the first foreign (at least non-East Asian) samurai.

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    Sengoku Daimyo AJBryant's Avatar
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    Sorry, but Yasuke was not a bodyguard, samurai, or advisor.

    If anything, he was a "mascot." He was an oddity to Japan, and Nobunaga, ever one to be into exotica, acquired him from the fellow who OWNED him. Not to be saying anything racist, but putting Yasuke in Japanese clothing was little different to Nobunaga and Co. as putting a monkey in a clown suit or something like that today.

    Yasuke was an amusement and a cultural oddity.

    He was never a samurai -- nor, for that matter, was William Adams ever officially recognized as such.


    Tony

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    tsuyaku o tsukete kudasai nurizeko's Avatar
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    Funny, everything I read indicates he was in fact accepted as equal in status to a samurai at the least.

    He was tight with the shogun and stuff, if that doesnt earn you some respect and a title to go with it then what does?.

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    he was a "mascot."
    So other Nobunaga's followers were, such as Hideyoshi.

    A Dutch guy, Jan Joosten van Loodensteijn, famous for the source of word, Yaesu, Tokyo, also had his privileges like Adams'. But his boat sank and he died earlier than Adams.
    Live long.

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