James Clavell's Shogun

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Postby Klonkku » Sun May 02, 2004 12:52 am

I have just begun to read Clavell's Shogun. The book seems *very* interesting, given that it takes place in the 1600's Japan. <BR><BR>I am interested to know, though, if there are any Clavell-fans out there.<BR><BR>Please, feel free to reply <img src="http://www.tolkienonline.com/mb/i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif"border=0>
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Postby ArathornII » Sun May 02, 2004 4:25 pm

I've always meant to read that book. I loved the mini-siries when I was younger.
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Postby Tomnoddy » Mon May 03, 2004 8:46 am

The books much better than the mini series. The mini series focus is very much on the relationship between Anjinsan and Fujiko, its much more of a love story. The book is about Toranaga and the political infighting between the Daimyos trying to become Shogun.
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Postby greenleafwood » Thu May 06, 2004 2:22 pm

I read this book many years ago, and was captivated by the historical content, whether fictional or otherwise.

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Postby mozza » Thu May 06, 2004 3:56 pm

My favourite book, with depth in both characters and setting. Ive read most of Clavells other books and I am very much a fan.
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Postby Durin VIII » Mon May 10, 2004 7:16 am

First read this close to 20 years ago and then reread it within the past year. Excellant book and the miniseries is really a very good adaptation and worth seeing. Watching the miniseries when it was first shown inspired me to read the book. Clavell did a lot of the writing for the miniseries.

Always wanted to read some of his other books, but have yet to get around to it.
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Postby GoodSam » Mon May 10, 2004 7:41 am

I read Shogun 23 or 24 years ago when I was still in HS. I remember being fascinated by the intreplay of the different cultures as I usually am with these kinds of books. I remember that when I finished the book, I discovered that I had read right through the night. I remember feeling cheated that I had missed a night of sleep for the ending.

IMO, King Rat is better than Shogun.
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Postby Ilmarinen » Tue May 18, 2004 8:58 am

I finished reading Shogun about a year ago. It took me two years, don't ask me why. It is an excellent book. All the relationships between the different daimios can be a bit difficult to follow, and Clavell seldom explains all the schemes, which might be frustrating. On the other hand, that just makes you think what you've read. The way the book builds up into the big finale is very captivating.

The descriptions of the way of life of the Japanese upper class are also interesting. BTW, the book is based on actual historical facts and correspondence, so it is rather accurate as well.

I've also read King Rat, but I can only remember that it was very good. It's well written, but, being comparatively short, not as heavy as Shogun.
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Postby Riot » Wed May 19, 2004 8:24 pm

Shogun is the best Japanese-centered fiction I've read, that was written by an American.

It is a very good book...well, at least I thought so when I read it. That was four years ago, though...
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Postby None_Elf_Ear » Thu May 20, 2004 3:36 am

I first read Shogun about 5 years ago, and I continued with Tai-Pan (which follows, someway, the same action, but it's taking place in another century and in China :P ), with The Noble House and some other Clavell works. But still, I liked Shogun the most, even if it's somehow a sad story. So, anytime when you want to comment it, be sure I'll be around :wink:
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Postby Dunthule » Tue Jun 08, 2004 3:20 pm

Hello Klonks and everyone!

Read it several years ago and loved it! :) I am not sure of it's historical accuracy, but I liked the East meets West theme.
I wonder if the movie "Last Samarai" has inspired people to read books such as Shogun.? :?:
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Postby mellyrn » Tue Jun 15, 2004 3:59 pm

I first read it about 20 years ago when I found it in the school library. I read it 4 times before I graduated, and have picked it back up a couple of times since. I first loved it for the vivid description of 16th (17th?) century Japanese life and for Blackthorne's (or Anjin-san's) journey in embracing that culture, but was unable to fully grasp the whole political side of the story until after teaching Japanese history some time later. It still ranks as one of my favorite books, although I have not read any of Clavell's other novels.

I have read a pretty chilling short story of his, though (arrgh - can't remember the title right now), that explores the meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance - and how so many Americans have no idea what that meaning is. I've used it with students to great effect.
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Postby ArPharazon » Mon Jun 28, 2004 5:26 am

In my view, Shogun is a brilliant work of fiction.

It shows how a book can capture and then play with your emotions and responses. At first, when Blackthorn is first shipwrecked in Japan, one is - with him - appalled by the brutality and seeming coldness of the Japanese. Yet several hundred pages later, after he and the reader have been immersed in the detail and sophistication of the Japanese culture and brought to understand its simplicity and its morality - one finds one's position reversed. Blackthorne, now a trusted samurai, goes to visit his old crew, and finds them unwashed, vermin ridden, crude and unpleasant - and you do to!!

Clavell took genuine Japanese history and the story of Will Adams (an English sailor shipwrecked just as Shogun relates) and then fictionalises it to give him room to play with ideas.

Thus Toranaga in the book, is history's Tokugawa Ieyesu - founder of a line of Shogun's that lasted until the C19th.

I would recommend the mini-series too, recently and magnificently released on dvd in the UK. you can watch the TV series and read the book in parallel to help one imagine the settings. costumes etc. Richard Chamberlain has never been better, and Toshiro Mifune (Seven Samurai/Rashomon etc) plays Toranaga with terrific authority and charisma.

As this is TORC - Michael Hordern (Gandalf in the BBC radio adaptation of LOTR) plays a Franciscan priest. John Rhys-Davis (Gimli in PJ's film, is a Portugese navigator.

The TV series has high production qualities, superb costumes and sets and great attention to detail. All Japanese characters are played by Japanese actors and genuine castles are used at some points.

The book is very detailed and can seem slow moving (reflecting the subtlies of Japanese politics) but it is worth persevering with.

If you haven't yet encountered Shogun, book or series, give either a go. Superb.

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Postby SilentWraith » Tue Jun 29, 2004 7:42 pm

ArPharazon wrote:Clavell took genuine Japanese history and the story of Will Adams (an English sailor shipwrecked just as Shogun relates) and then fictionalises it to give him room to play with ideas.

Thus Toranaga in the book, is history's Tokugawa Ieyesu - founder of a line of Shogun's that lasted until the C19th.


James Clavell is one of my favourite authors and Shogun, I think, is his best novel. I first read it many years ago, at a time when I should have been studying for my final high school exams. As a result, I did not perform as well in those exams as I, perhaps, should have. But it sure was much more fun reading Shogun than it was studying! It was only later that I learned that many of the characters in Shogun were based on real-life characters, as ArPhy has mentioned above. So I prefer to think that I was, in fact, studying while I was reading Shogun. Studying history, to be exact. Okay, so it's a quite fictionalised version of history. Please don't destroy my fantasy! :)

Incidentally, if you are interested in this period of Japan's history, you might like to check out a three-part documentary series called Japan - Memoirs Of A Secret Empire. This documentary is narrated by Richard Chamberlain, who starred as John Blackthorne in the Shogun mini-series, and examines the history of Japan from the 16th to the 19th centuries. The first part describes how Tokugawa Ieyasu unified Japan and established a dynasty that ruled Japan for over 250 years. The second part is mainly concerned with the grandson of Ieyasu, Tokugawa Iemitsu, and how he tightened control over Japan's warlords and expelled all foreigners. The final part concentrated on 18th century Edo (later Tokyo) and how it flourished culturally and economically, and on the arrival of Commodore Mathew Perry in 1853 and the return of foreigners to Japan. It includes the story of Will Adams, on whom John Blackthorne was based, the rise and fall of Christianity in Japan and the decline of the Samurai in 19th century Japan. It's well worth a look.

Also of interest, for those who enjoyed Shogun, is Clavell's last book, Gai Jin. Gai Jin acts as a kind of sequel to Shogun, as well as being a sequel to Tai Pan. It is set in Japan in the 19th century, after the arrival of Commodore Perry. The first half of this novel is very good. However, Clavell fell ill while writing Gai Jin and died shortly after he finished it. I think his illness affected his writing and the second half of Gai Jin runs out of steam, leading to a lacklustre conclusion.
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Postby olorin_of_scripps » Tue Aug 24, 2004 2:39 pm

i just finished shogun and thoroughly enjoyed it. i've always been interested in japanese culture during that period, but have never really studied or read in depth about it. so shogun was a great read for me. my one gripe with the book, however, was with the ending. i was disappointed becaues i felt clavell ran out of steam. we're basically left with a summary of the final events from the decisive conflict with ishido to toronaga's "revealed" ambition of shogunate. i kept anticipating the final battle, political revelations of charactors, such as, kiyama and ochiba, and toranaga's ascension. although we're basically told which way things would fall, but i still would have preferred to read a detailed story about what happened. as i was coming to the end, i thought "there's still so much to happen, but i only have 20 or so pages left". other than that, i really liked the book. i do think the endings completely different from lotr in the way the climax lotr is essentially the fall of sauron. tolkien, however, goes on with the scouring of the shire. you get a much better sense of closure in lotr because he "finishes" the story. with shogun, you don't get that. with shogun, i felt more like i felt after reading portions of the silmarillion where i'm left with unanswered questions about certain parts of the story. oh well...not all books can be as well written as lotr!
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Postby Orunien » Thu Aug 26, 2004 7:37 am

Shogun is an excellent bok, though it gets verbose and overcomplicated at times. All in all, definitely worth a look - it got me to read Gai-Jin, which wasn't nearly as good. Clavell seems to be almost a one-trick pony - it seems like you can only read one of his books before the style starts to get to you. Still, the best book I've ever read regarding Sengoku Japan.
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Shogun by James Clavell

Postby Proudfoot » Mon Oct 18, 2004 6:58 pm

Dunthule wrote:Hello Klonks and everyone!

Read it several years ago and loved it! :) I am not sure of it's historical accuracy, but I liked the East meets West theme.
I wonder if the movie "Last Samarai" has inspired people to read books such as Shogun.? :?:


I just started reading Shogun a couple weeks ago, and I love it so far. Yes, it was "The Last Samurai" which inspired me to read it. I loved that movie. It's a very compelling story of a man's spirtual journey from dishonor to honor in an East-meets-West setting. I'm gaining a new appreciation for and interest in Japan and its culture and history. I have fond memories of visiting Japan as a young Navy man 25 years ago. The highlight of my visit -- climbing Mt. Fuji.
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Postby BornofFantasy » Mon Oct 18, 2004 11:24 pm

Mr. Clavelle, has written a couple of good novels, Shogun being the best of them, others like Whirlwind, and Tapei are reccomended as well. Shogun, in my opinion is a phenominal read and a nice introduction into Japanese culture, it is VERY loosely historicaly correct. I may be slightly biased due to my heritage (half-japanese), but the female lead a character in the novel Toda Mariko noh Buntaro, is the one of the best written female characters in any book I have ever read. This book, is possibly my all time favorite historical novel. As someone mentioned the movie, which is actually a Tv mini-series, is absolutely one of the best book-to-tv adapatations ever, heavy detail, around 8 hours long, phenominal acting all around.

Let me say this about The Last Samuraii, I ask for people to take it for what it is, a expensive, hyped hollywood action movie, full of delusions made up by someone, the story is even more loosley based on history, and in my opinion speaking as someone how knows about his heritage is utter nonesense. The Last Samuraii is a very bad "B" movie compared to Shogun. If one enjoyed the movie fine, but don't mistake it for anything near correct, much less historical.
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Postby Proudfoot » Tue Oct 19, 2004 6:53 am

BornofFantasy -- As much as I enjoy the movie, I had heard similar comments from others, so I watch it with the proper grain of salt. As a rule I don't rely upon Hollywood to teach me history! The spectacle, action, acting performances and story line really work for me, enough so that it made me want to learn the REAL history. I've seen a book titled "The Last Samurai : The Life and Battles of Saigo Takamori" that sounds interesting. Have you heard of it or of that person? One question I have about the movie -- Katsumato has a shaved head -- no top knot! I assume this would not be accurate, that the filmmakers simply did that to distinguish him for American viewers?

Can you point out to me some of the more important historical inaccuracies in "Shogun" that might help a novice like me as I read it? I've only finished about 200 pages, just through Blackthorn's court of inquiry before Toranaga and his imprisonment.
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Postby BornofFantasy » Tue Oct 19, 2004 8:01 am

First I want to reiterate the novel is indeed an excellent read, in my opinion, and one of my favorites. As in introduction into the culture of the time, it is a wonderful novel, and a wonderful novel altogether period. When I first read it myself, I was mesmerized how some of the principles were so much a part of my own very upbringing, and in fact my own pesonal thougth process, although of course modernized.

Can you point out to me some of the more important historical inaccuracies in "Shogun" that might help a novice like me as I read it
?

The major circumstance however, and checked with my family before I say this, at the time no European of the time was ever made samuraii, much less hamamoto, which is reserved for only the most respected and trusted of samurai by a liege lord, a distinction of true honor in japanese society. Well, someone explained above the "gist" of it, however their are small things throughout the novel that stick out at me. I will say this is not a knock on the novel at all, as it is a fiction novel. The obvious all the names are different, yet most relate to a historical figure in some way Toranaga is of course Tokugawa, a rather major figure in Japanese history, and it's last Shogun. It would be very easy to reseach him, and then compare with whats given in the text. There is a a part in the novel where in Osaka, Blackkthorne is captured, and the imprisoned monk with his flock, tells Blackthorne that in Japan men are named with their occupation first, and says he is a porter, when in fact the wording used means rail porter, unfortunately there were no railroads in Japan at the time or in the immiediate future, also the use of moma-san to is grossly misplaced, and almost unimaginable. Ninja are used a couple of times in the novels and movies, and the ninjas are grossly misrepresented...for all ninja enthusaists out their who think there shrouded costumes are so wonderful, and cool, I hate to be the one to inform you they were incoporated and developed first for use in japanese plays.

One question I have about the movie -- Katsumato has a shaved head -- no top knot! I assume this would not be accurate, that the filmmakers simply did that to distinguish him for American viewers?


I cannot be sure, perhaps, he just was bald, a couldn't grow hair? I would hate to speculate, it was of course custom, even more then custom to have such a hairstyle. However, in the movie I think it tells that Katsumato came from a temple, "out of the way", that his family owned, which may be the reasoning, also during this time frame in history, the samurai was being phased out so it was not altogether uncommon for a samuraii not to have the traditional cut, the movie is afterall called the the "Last" Samurai. One thing I do like about the movie is its inclusion of the actor that plays the Emperor, who is the son of a very famous kabuki actor in Japan, perhaps the most famous. One thing however, the difference in periods of times being displayed in Shogun and The Last Samuraii are extremely important, they do not take palce anywhere near the same time, thus the vast differences in the culture between Shogun and The Last Samurai.

If one is looking for a writer that does pretty accurate stuff, and is not looking for merely an action story, Olvier Statler's novel, Japanese Inn, is an amazing, and from what I can tell very accurate novel of Japan, during a simalair time period.
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Postby prmiller » Sun Nov 07, 2004 7:16 am

When books or movies about Japan appear, there are a host of Japanophiles who bring stellar observations about these works. Ironically, my years in Japan has shown my curious paradox: while rolling their eyes about another period movie about Japan by Westerners, there is a kind of pride that their country has again been chosen to the focus of the world's attention.

One student commented: "I never really understood how people felt
about bushido, until I saw The Last Samurai." That from a second year
university student. Sometimes seeing one's culture through another
set of eyes can reveal much. I wonder what Japanese would think
about Canada?
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Postby The,real,Maeglin » Tue Nov 09, 2004 2:33 am

I have read this book several months ago and although I sometimes found it hard to read, (little bit annoyed by the constant shifting to japanese words), i found it in total a great book.

I have read it in dutch though and the past years told me you could better read books in english.

What I found most intruiging were the stories about the dutch and learning a lot about a country in an age I hardly knew anything about. The book had quite some action, was romantic aswell and in my eyes as tragic as the movie "the last samurai". Which is one of my favorite movies, things being accurate or not.

THe past year I tried to learn a lot more about the samurai, and I am participating in a roleplay about them. It is an intriguing time and interesting people. I for sure will read the book again :)
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Postby portia » Tue Nov 09, 2004 7:13 pm

I read "Shogun" some years ago, and had trouble putting it down.

What ArPhy said.

also:
I was struck by the way the use of the Japanese language was worked into the story so that a person reading it almost started to think in Japanese.
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Postby The,real,Maeglin » Wed Nov 10, 2004 1:50 am

Hmm, then you experienced it differently then me portia, I just couldn't take it anymore with all the neh's :P
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Postby Kengo » Sat Jun 04, 2005 8:54 am

Klonkku wrote:I am interested to know, though, if there are any Clavell-fans out there. Please, feel free to reply

Shogun is one of my favorite novels. It's one of the greatest historical novels ever written. The mini-series is now available on DVD.

If you have not read them, you will love both Musashi and Taiko by Eiji Yoshikawa.

Criterion Collection has DVDs of Samurai Trilogy, based on Musashi, that you would also enjoy.
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Re: James Clavell's Shogun

Postby TheGreenWizard » Wed Sep 24, 2014 2:11 pm

I absolutely loved Shogun. It is one of the very few books that has come close to competing with The Lord of the Rings for my favorite book of all time. James Clavell is one of my very favorite writers.

If you enjoyed Shogun then you MUST complete the 'Asian Saga' that Clavell wrote, for which Shogun is the first novel. The following novels in the saga are (in order): Tai Pan, Gai Jin, King Rat, Noble House and Whirlwind.

Whirlwind is the only book in the saga I have yet to read. The others are all fantastic. Gai Jin is probably my second favorite in the series to Shogun.
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