Sunday, March 3, 2024

The Real History Behind FX's 'Shogun'

Molly Solly at the Smithsonian magazine offers a piece on the story behind Shogun.

When a powerful Japanese feudal lord with aspirations of seizing control of the warring nation learned that a ragged group of European sailors had landed on the archipelago’s southern shores in April 1600, he was eager to arrange a meeting with their leader. 

The outsiders, Tokugawa Ieyasu believed, could be of assistance in his grand plan. With the Dutch ship’s captain too ill to move, the crew sent English navigator William Adams in his place.

“Coming before [Ieyasu], he viewed me well and seemed to be wonderfully favorable,” wrote Adams in a letter to his wife. “I showed unto him the name of our country, and that our land long sought out the East Indies, and desired friendship with all kings and potentates in way of merchandise, having in our land diverse commodities which these lands had not.

Impressed by Adams’ diplomatic overtures, Ieyasu ignored the advice of Portuguese Jesuit missionaries who urged him to execute the Protestant interloper. Instead, the warlord took Adams into his confidence. Over the next several years, as Ieyasu consolidated power under the newly established Tokugawa shogunate, he treated Adams as a trusted adviser, rewarding him with land, money and other honors.

While Adams’ relationship with Ieyasu was far from the most consequential in Japan’s history of European relations, the pair’s novelty and unlikely dynamic had a comparatively outsized cultural impact. This story of the first Englishman to visit Japan has inspired an array of dramatic works, most notably James Clavell’s 1975 best-selling novel, Shogun, and its 1980 mini-series adaptation, which became a nationwide sensation in the United States.

Forty-four years after the “Shogun” mini-series earned NBC its highest Nielsen ratings yet, a new version offers a contemporary twist on the tale. As Gina Balian, co-president of FX Entertainment, tells Variety, “When you’re taking on an adaptation of something that’s already been adapted, there has to be a reason why.” She adds, “We got more comfortable with needing to tell [the story] as much from the Japanese side, casting Japanese-speaking actors. We evolved as the project evolved.”

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

The Real History Behind FX's 'Shogun' | History | Smithsonian Magazine

You can also read my previous post on Shogun via the below link:

Paul Davis On Crime: A Look Back At James Clavell's 'Shogun' 

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