Shōgun is a fascinating historical novel which takes place in 17th century Japan. To be precise, the year 1600 was the very first time an Englishman set shore (accidentally) on Japan.
At that time, Japan was known only to the Spanish and Portuguese. This kind of knowledge was a deeply hidden secret, for the Portuguese were ruthless with trade and spreading religion and knew how to make an absolute fortune in both.
The book unravels as the English captain, John Blackthorne, has his life is spared by Lord Toranaga, a powerful Daimyō, or ruler of the region. Toranga takes a huge risk letting him live when all others wish the barbarian immediate death.
Blackthorne is an extremely well travelled, educated and smart man and Toranga realises that he can take advantage of this vast wealth of knowledge. At the time, the British were far superior in trade, warfare, ship building and map making. They had discovered the majority of the new world.
Toranga spent endless days and nights sucking the knowledge out of Blackthorne. In return Toranga offers him protection, a roof over his head and money to spare. He learns the Japanese way of life, the language, how to be civil and slowly becomes less of a barbarian. Eventually he falls in love.
I love how Clavell writes because he regularly sets the scene by stating important historical facts and ancient Japanese customs. He makes it easy for the reader to slip into the narrative and get lost in time. I learnt so much reading Shōgun and I am now deeply fascinated in ancient Japanese culture. I would love to travel to Japan and visit some of the locations in the book!
I don't want to give away too much more of the book. But if you are interested in Japanese (or Asian) culture, especially in the time of the samurai then I highly recommend you grab a copy of Shōgun. This is the perfect book for backpacking or travelling 🙂.