Saturday, January 23, 2016

William Adams Gravestone: Hirado, Nagasaki Prefecture

Anyone who has ever read James Clavell's "Shogun," or seen the movie, has already been indirectly introduced to William Adams. The fictional heroics of John Blackthorne were loosely based on Adams' exploits.

After serving in the Royal Navy under Sir Francis Drake, Adams became a pilot for the company Barbary Merchants. During this service, he took part in an expedition to the Arctic that lasted about two years in search of a Northeast Passage along the coast of Siberia to the Far East.  It was late November 1599 when the ship sailed westwardly for Japan.  When the ship made landfall April 19, 1600, in Oita Prefecture as a result of a typhoon.

Allegations by Portuguese priests that Adams' ship was a pirate vessel led to seizure, and the sickly crew was imprisoned at Osaka Castle on orders by the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu.
But the Shogun took a liking to Adams, eventually making him a revered diplomatic and trade adviser and bestowing great privileges upon him. In 1604, Ieyasu ordered Adams to build a western-style sailing ship.

Ieyasu's rewards for Adams' service and loyalty were grand, and included a large house in the new capital of Tokyo. The most impressive, however, were two swords. A badge of rank and authority, the swords transformed Adams the English pilot into Miura Anjin the samurai. Along with this came a handsome salary, and the means to marry Oyuki, the daughter of a noble samurai and official of Edo Castle.

Adams and Oyuki had a son, Joseph, and a daughter, Susanna.  In 1613, he became preoccupied with trading after helping the British East India Company set up a trading post near Nagasaki then setting up his own.

Adams died at Hirado, north of Nagasaki, on May 16, 1620. He was 56.

It is worth noting that William Adams had a wife and children in England, but Ieyasu had forbidden the Englishman to leave Japan. In a true stroke of wisdom, the Shogun decreed that William Adams was dead and that Miura Anjin, a samurai, was born. This made his wife in England a widow and allowed Adams to serve him on a permanent basis. Also, only as a samurai, was he eligible to marry a samurai's daughter.

Please click on the link to see William Adams Nagasaki Gravestone on a map:

Please click of the pics below to enlarge:

Messages in English

William Adams Gravestone

The tomb


Well signposted

Interesting indeed

Here is a video of William Adams Gravestone located in Hirakata Park in Hirado:

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