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Is Shogun a True Story?

by Xtreme HD IPTV


  • Shogun
    is a fictitious story inspired by real historical figures and events, bringing 17th-century Japan to life in epic fashion.
  • FX’s adaptation features accurate historical details, with adjustments made to fix inaccuracies from the original book for a more authentic portrayal.
  • Show creators Rachel Kondo and Justin Marks meticulously crafted a detailed ‘bible’ to ensure every aspect of
    reflects the culture and society of Samurai-era Japan.

FX’s adaptation of James Clavell’s Shogun has taken the TV world by storm. After its premiere, the series debuted with a perfect 100% Rotten Tomatoes score and was immediately compared to Game of Thrones in terms of its scale. The show is a brutal tale of political backstabbing, religious insurgency, and all-out war in 17th-century Japan, as the five ruling Daimyos battle for control after the recent death of the Taiko, which threw the balance of power in Japan into disarray.

FX’s series isn’t the first time the epic book has been brought to the screen, with Richard Chamberlain starring in the 1980 miniseries of the same name alongside legendary Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune. The ’80s version was a landmark TV event, with nearly a third of the US tuning in to watch at least part of the five-episode miniseries as it aired on NBC. With Shogun holding such a grip on the pop culture landscape, many fans wonder whether it is based on a true story and how historically accurate it is.

Shogun Is Based on Real Figures, Not a Real Story

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No, Shogun is not directly based on any one true story. John Blackthorne didn’t sail to Japan, befriend Lord Toranaga, and introduce them to Western combat tactics. The actual core plot of Shogun is purely fictitious. However, Clavell was heavily inspired by real figures and historical events and pieced various significant moments of Japanese history together to form the book.

At the core of the story is Toranaga’s battle with the Council of Regents for control over the country. While Toranaga didn’t exist, he was heavily inspired by the real former Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu. Between 1467 and 1615, Japan was recorded as being in an almost never-ending state of war. Tokugawa Ieyasu led the mission to unify Japan, being announced as Shogun in 1603. Ieyasu’s appointment of leadership started the last Shogunate in Japan, which lasted from 1603 until 1868. Toranaga’s personality and backstory also closely resemble Ieyasu’s. Both were held as hostages by various enemy factions as children, and both were cunning, patient, and steady leaders.

The true catalyst of Shogun‘s story is John Blackthorne, played by Cosmo Jarvis, the first English sailor to reach Japan and break the Portuguese monopoly over trade between Japan and China. Blackthorne is heavily inspired by the real English sailor, William Addams. Blackthorne is the character most directly inspired by his historical counterpart. Addams reached Japan in 1600 and quickly became a vessel to Lord Ieyasu, later bestowed his own title, fief, and swords, officially becoming the first white Samurai. Trade is also a key element of Shogun‘s narrative, with Blackthorne disrupting the Portuguese’s trade control. This is also relatively true, as Adams was heavily responsible for building trade relations between Japan and the Dutch trading companies.

The other core character in Shogun is Lady Mariko, played by Anna Sawai. Mariko was inspired by Hosokawa Gracia, a Christian Noblewoman. While Hosokawa Gracia wasn’t as politically involved as Mariko, her fluency in Portuguese and Latin, stemming from her Christian teachings, made her a unique figure in 17th-century Japan.

FX’s Showrunner Fixed Historical Mistakes From the Shogun Book

While James Clavell’s book provided Western audiences with an unprecedented look into an otherwise obscure historical culture, it wasn’t without its historical inaccuracies. Speaking to the Empire Podcast, Shogun‘s creators, Rachel Kondo and Justin Marks, discussed some of the changes they had to make to present their version of the story as accurately as possible.

One of the major plot points from the book is Blackthorne introducing Toranaga’s soldiers to musket tactics after Toranaga claims the 500 rifles that were stored on Blackthorne’s ship. However, muskets were introduced to the country around 50–60 years before that (so much so that Japan was then producing more muskets than European countries). Marks said, “Historically, we were up against a reality that… we can’t play into this trope that we’ve probably seen before.” He then told the story of how their historical supervisor pointed out that Blackthorne also brought over 20 cannons, and, historically, the Portuguese weren’t as adept at using canons as the English and Dutch, and that became Blackthorne’s new, historically accurate arc in FX’s series.


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Throughout production, Kondo, Marks, and the entire production team slowly began producing their own historical ‘bible’ (as they called it) – a complete account of the elements they needed to include to make their adaptation of Shogun as accurate as possible. This bible didn’t just include artificial elements like architecture and costumes but also emphasized the culture and society of 16th-century Japan and the Samurai. The pair discussed the difficulty of creating a story set in a culture they could never truly understand, so their ‘bible’ became the go-to guide to ensure that every element was as accurate for 17th-century Japan as possible. Shogun airs on FX and Hulu every Tuesday, with the first three episodes available now. Watch the trailer below.

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by Xtreme HD IPTV

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