A bold English adventurer. An invincible Japanese warlord. A beautiful woman torn between two ways of life, two ways of love. All brought together in a mighty saga of a time and place aflame with conflict, passion, ambition, lust and the struggle for power…
and his phenomenal best seller
“SUPERBLY CRAFTED … grips the reader like a riptide … gets the juices flowing!”
“SHŌGUN IS IRRESISTIBLE … I can’t remember when a novel has seized my mind like this one. Perhaps it was the author’s Hong Kong novel Tai-Pan…. James Clavell breathes narrative. It’s almost impossible not to continue to read SHŌGUN once having opened it. Yet it’s not only something that you read—you live it … possessed by the Englishman Blackthorne, the Japanese lord Toranaga and medieval Japan…. People, customs, settings, needs and desires all become so enveloping you forget who and where you are.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“A TALE SURGING WITH ACTION, INTRIGUE AND LOVE … A HUGE CAST … VAST AND DRAMATIC … STUNNING … SAVAGE … BEAUTIFUL … AN EXTRAORDINARY PERFORMANCE!”
“EXCITING, TOTALLY ABSORBING … be prepared for late nights, meals untasted, business unattended….”
“Adventure and action, the suspense of danger, shocking, touching human relationships … a climactic human story.”
—Los Angeles Times
“Adventure, intrigue, love … death, bloodshed and sex … reader, you’ll love it!”
“A COLOSSAL WORK IN EVERY WAY … a huge panorama … but you won’t want it shorter by one sentence.”
THE CHILDREN’S STORY
Table of Contents
Other Books By This Author
For two seafarers, Captains, Royal Navy,
who loved their ships more than their women
—as was expected of them.
I would like to thank all those here, in Asia, and in Europe—the living and the dead—who helped to make this novel possible.
Lookout Mountain, California
The gale tore at him and he felt its bite deep within and he knew that if they did not make landfall in three days they would all be dead. Too many deaths on this voyage, he thought, I’m Pilot-Major of a dead fleet. One ship left out of five—eight and twenty men from a crew of one hundred and seven and now only ten can walk and the rest near death and our Captain-General one of them. No food, almost no water and what there is, brackish and foul.
His name was John Blackthorne and he was alone on deck but for the bowsprit lookout—Salamon the mute—who huddled in the lee, searching the sea ahead.
The ship heeled in a sudden squall and Blackthorne held on to the arm of the seachair that was lashed near the wheel on the quarterdeck until she righted, timbers squealing. She was the Erasmus, two hundred and sixty tons, a three-masted trader-warship out of Rotterdam, armed with twenty cannon and sole survivor of the first expeditionary force sent from the Netherlands to ravage the enemy in the New World. The first Dutch ships ever to breach the secrets of the Strait of Magellan. Four hundred and ninety-six men, all volunteers. All Dutch except for three Englishmen—two pilots, one officer. Their orders: to plunder Spanish and Portuguese possessions in the New World and put them to the torch; to open up permanent trading concessions; to discover new islands in the Pacific Ocean that could serve as permanent bases and to claim the territory for the Netherlands; and, within three years, to come home again.
Protestant Netherlands had been at war with Catholic Spain for more than four decades, struggling to throw off the yoke of their hated Spanish masters. The Netherlands, sometimes called Holland, Dutchland, or the Low Countries, were still legally part of the Spanish Empire. England, their only allies, the first country in Christendom to break with the Papal Court at Rome and become Protestant some seventy-odd years ago, had also been warring on Spain for the last twenty years, and openly allied with the Dutch for a decade.
The wind freshened even more and the ship lurched. She was riding under bare poles but for storm topsails. Even so the tide and the storm bore her strongly toward the darkening horizon.
There’s more storm there, Blackthorne told himself, and more reefs and more shoals. And unknown sea. Good. I’ve set myself against the sea all my life and I’ve always won. I always will.
First English pilot ever to get through Magellan’s Pass. Yes, the first—and first pilot ever to sail these Asian waters, apart from a few bastard Portuguese or motherless Spaniards who still think they own the world. First Englishman in these seas….
So many firsts. Yes. And so many deaths to win them.
Again he tasted the wind and smelled it, but there was no hint of land. He searched the ocean but it was dull gray and angry. Not a fleck of seaweed or splash of color to give a hint of a sanding shelf. He saw the spire of another reef far on the starboard quarter but that told him nothing. For a month now outcrops had threatened them, but never a sight of land. This ocean’s endless, he thought. Good. That’s what you were trained for—to sail the unknown sea, to chart it and come home again. How many days from home? One year and eleven months and two days. The last landfall Chile, one hundred and thirty-three days aft, across the ocean Magellan had first sailed eighty years ago cal
Blackthorne was famished and his mouth and body ached from the scurvy. He forced his eyes to check the compass course and his brain to calculate an approximate position. Once the plot was written down in his rutter—his sea manual—he would be safe in this speck of the ocean. And if he was safe, his ship was safe and then together they might find the Japans, or even the Christian King Prester John and his Golden Empire that legend said lay to the north of Cathay, wherever Cathay was.
And with my share of the riches I’ll sail on again, westward for home, first English pilot ever to circumnavigate the globe, and I’ll never leave home again. Never. By the head of my son!
The cut of the wind stopped his mind from wandering and kept him awake. To sleep now would be foolish. You’ll never wake from that sleep, he thought, and stretched his arms to ease the cramped muscles in his back and pulled his cloak tighter around him. He saw that the sails were trimmed and the wheel lashed secure. The bow lookout was awake. So patiently he settled back and prayed for land.
“Go below, Pilot. I take this watch if it pleases you.” The third mate, Hendrik Specz, was pulling himself up the gangway, his face gray with fatigue, eyes sunken, skin blotched and sallow. He leaned heavily against the binnacle to steady himself, retching a little. “Blessed Lord Jesus, piss on the day I left Holland.”
“Where’s the mate, Hendrik?”
“In his bunk. He can’t get out of his scheit voll bunk. And he won’t—not this side of Judgment Day.”
“And the Captain-General?”
“Moaning for food and water.” Hendrik spat. “I tell him I roast him a capon and bring it on a silver platter with a bottle of brandy to wash it down. Scheit-huis! Coot!”
“Hold your tongue!”
“I will, Pilot. But he’s a maggot-eaten fool and we’ll be dead because of him.” The young man retched and brought up mottled phlegm. “Blessed Lord Jesus help me!”
“Go below. Come back at dawn.”
Hendrik lowered himself painfully into the other seachair. “There’s the reek of death below. I take the watch if it pleases you. What’s the course?”
“Wherever the wind takes us.”
“Where’s the landfall you promised us? Where’s the Japans—where is it, I ask?”
“Always ahead! Gottimhimmel, it wasn’t in our orders to sail into the unknown. We should be back home by now, safe, with our bellies full, not chasing St. Elmo’s fire.”
“Go below or hold your tongue.”
Sullenly Hendrik looked away from the tall bearded man. Where are we now? he wanted to ask. Why can’t I see the secret rutter? But he knew you don’t ask those questions of a pilot, particularly this one. Even so, he thought, I wish I was as strong and healthy as when I left Holland. Then I wouldn’t wait. I’d smash your gray-blue eyes now and stamp that maddening half-smile off your face and send you to the hell you deserve. Then I’d be Captain-Pilot and we’d have a Netherlander running the ship—not a foreigner—and the secrets would be safe for us. Because soon we’ll be at war with you English. We want the same thing: to command the sea, to control all trade routes, to dominate the New World, and to strangle Spain.
“Perhaps there is no Japans,” Hendrik muttered suddenly. “It’s Gottbewonden legend.”
“It exists. Between latitudes thirty and forty north. Now hold your tongue or go below.”
“There’s death below, Pilot,” Hendrik muttered and put his eyes ahead, letting himself drift.
Blackthorn shifted in his seachair, his body hurting worse today. You’re luckier than most, he thought, luckier than Hendrik. No, not luckier. More careful. You conserved your fruit while the others consumed theirs carelessly. Against your warnings. So now your scurvy is still mild whereas the others are constantly hemorrhaging, their bowels diarrhetic, their eyes sore and rheumy, and their teeth lost or loose in their heads. Why is it men never learn?
He knew they were all afraid of him, even the Captain-General, and that most hated him. But that was normal, for it was the pilot who commanded at sea; it was he who set the course and ran the ship, he who brought them from port to port.
Any voyage today was dangerous because the few navigational charts that existed were so vague as to be useless. And there was absolutely no way to fix longitude.
“Find how to fix longitude and you’re the richest man in the world,” his old teacher, Alban Caradoc, had said. “The Queen, God bless her, ’ll give you ten thousand pound and a dukedom for the answer to the riddle. The dung-eating Portuguese’ll give you more—a golden galleon. And the motherless Spaniards’ll give you twenty! Out of sight of land you’re always lost, lad.” Caradoc had paused and shaken his head sadly at him as always. “You’re lost, lad. Unless …”
“Unless you have a rutter!” Blackthorne had shouted happily, knowing that he had learned his lessons well. He was thirteen then and had already been apprenticed a year to Alban Caradoc, pilot and shipwright, who had become the father he had lost, who had never beaten him but taught him and the other boys the secrets of shipbuilding and the intimate way of the sea.
A rutter was a small book containing the detailed observation of a pilot who had been there before. It recorded magnetic compass courses between ports and capes, headlands and channels. It noted the sounding and depths and color of the water and the nature of the seabed. It set down the how we got there and how we got back: how many days on a special tack, the pattern of the wind, when it blew and from where, what currents to expect and from where; the time of storms and the time of fair winds; where to careen the ship and where to water; where there were friends and where foes; shoals, reefs, tides, havens; at best, everything necessary for a safe voyage.
The English, Dutch, and French had rutters for their own waters, but the waters of the rest of the world had been sailed only by captains from Portugal and Spain, and these two countries considered all rutters secret. Rutters that revealed the seaways to the New World or unraveled the mysteries of the Pass of Magellan and the Cape of Good Hope—both Portuguese discoveries—and thence the seaways to Asia were guarded as national treasures by the Portuguese and Spanish, and sought after with equal ferocity by their Dutch and English enemies.
But a rutter was only as good as the pilot who wrote it, the scribe who hand-copied it, the very rare printer who printed it, or the scholar who translated it. A rutter could therefore contain errors. Even deliberate ones. A pilot never knew for certain until he had been there himself. At least once.
At sea the pilot was leader, sole guide, and final arbiter of the ship and her crew. Alone he commanded from the quarterdeck.
That’s heady wine, Blackthorne told himself. And once sipped, never to be forgotten, always to be sought, and always necessary. That’s one of the things that keep you alive when others die.
He got up and relieved himself in the scuppers. Later the sand ran out of the hourglass by the binnacle and he turned it and rang the ship’s bell.
“Can you stay awake, Hendrik?”
“Yes. Yes, I believe so.”
“I’ll send someone to replace the bow lookout. See he stands in the wind and not in the lee. That’ll keep him sharp and awake.” For a moment he wondered if he should turn the ship into the wind and heave to for the night but he decided against it, went down the companionway, and opened the fo’c’sle door. The companionway led into the crew’s quarters. The cabin ran the width of the ship and had bunks and hammock space for a hundred and twenty men. The warmth surrounded him and he was grateful for it and ignored the ever present stench from the bilges below. None of the twenty-odd men moved from his bunk.
“Get aloft, Maetsukker,” he said in Dutch, the lingua franca of the Low Countries, which he spoke perfectly, along with Portuguese and Spanish and Latin.
“I’m near death,” the small, sharp-featured man said, cringing deeper into the bunk. “I’m sick. Look, the scurvy’s taken all my teeth. Lord Jesus help us, we’ll all perish! If it was
n’t for you we’d all be home by now, safe! I’m a merchant. I’m not a seaman. I’m not part of the crew…. Take someone else. Johann there’s—” He screamed as Blackthorne jerked him out of the bunk and hurled him against the door. Blood flecked his mouth and he was stunned. A brutal kick in his side brought him out of his stupor.
“You get your face aloft and stay there till you’re dead or we make landfall.”
The man pulled the door open and fled in agony. Blackthorne looked at the others. They stared back at him. “How are you feeling, Johann?”
“Good enough, Pilot. Perhaps I’ll live.”
Johann Vinck was forty-three, the chief gunner and bosun’s mate, the oldest man aboard. He was hairless and toothless, the color of aged oak and just as strong. Six years ago he had sailed with Blackthorne on the ill-fated search for the Northeast Passage, and each man knew the measure of the other.
“At your age most men are already dead, so you’re ahead of us all.” Blackthorne was thirty-six.
Vinck smiled mirthlessly. “It’s the brandy, Pilot, that an’ fornication an’ the saintly life I’ve led.”
No one laughed. Then someone pointed at a bunk. “Pilot, the bosun’s dead.”
“Then get the body aloft! Wash it and close his eyes! You, you, and you!”
The men were quickly out of their bunks this time and together they half dragged, half carried the corpse from the cabin.
“Take the dawn watch, Vinck. And Ginsel, you’re bow lookout.” “Yes sir.”
Blackthorne went back on deck.
He saw that Hendrik was still awake, that the ship was in order. The relieved lookout, Salamon, stumbled past him, more dead than alive, his eyes puffed and red from the cut of the wind. Blackthorne crossed to the other door and went below. The passageway led to the great cabin aft, which was the Captain-General’s quarters and magazine. His own cabin was starboard and the other, to port, was usually for the three mates. Now Baccus van Nekk, the chief merchant, Hendrik the third mate, and the boy, Croocq, shared it. They were all very sick.