Review: Samurai William by Giles Milton

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With all the adventure, derring-do, and bloodcurdling battle scenes of his earlier book, Nathaniel’s Nutmeg, acclaimed historian Giles Milton dazzles readers with the true story of William Adams—the first Englishman to set foot in Japan (and the inspiration for James Clavell’s bestselling novel Shogun). Beginning with Adams’s startling letter to the East India Company in 1611—more than a decade after he’d arrived in Japan—Samurai William chronicles the first foray by the West into that mysterious closed-off land. Drawing upon the journals and letters of Adams as well as the other Englishmen who came looking for him, Samurai William presents a unique glimpse of Japan before it once again closed itself off from the world for another two hundred years

Featuring a bizarre footnote in history, this very readable book introduces William Adams, a man who became stranded in Japan and ended up making it his home. Adams was able to navigate the intricate etiquette of Japanese culture, learn the language, and became invaluable to the survival of the first group of English traders in Japan. The victim of jealousy and distrust by his countrymen, Adams was still loyal and did what he could to help. Adams was a curious figure at a turning point in Japanese history. His battles with the Jesuits and Dutch are fascinating and a little known part of Japanese history is thrilling. Adams was perhaps ahead of his time, understanding the best way to navigate the culture of the land he had become stranded in was to respect it and modify his own behavior, something that the majority of the European populace found themselves unable to do when encountering other cultures.

5 out of 5