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Francis Xavier
Co_Founder of the Jesuit Order and Missionary to Japan
Mission to Japan

Francis Xavier
Travels in Japan

History of Golf
Mary Queen of Scots


Sukashi Tsuba

Noble House


William Adams the first Englishman in Japan:

Sir John Hawkins
16th century English Sea Captian

William Adams, the first Englishmen to arrive in Japan, made landfall on April 19 th 1600 at Usaki in Bungo on the island of Kyushu.

Adams had left Holland two years earlier for the Dutch India Company in the company of five ships heading west to South America, through the straights of Magellan and across the Pacific Ocean. By the time the expedition reached Japan the attrition rate of materiel and personnel was so great that only one ship remained with 24 men aboard and most of them were in a sickly state of health. The condition of the crew was so bleak that only nine of the remaining twenty four were even able to walk. The ship "The Erasmus" had left Rotterdam in June 1598 with 110 men aboard.

During the course of the voyage two of the expeditions five ships had been taken captive, one by the Spanish, one by the portuguese and another had been lost along with all personnel to a storm while attempting to cross the Pacific. The fifth ship had turned back at the Straights of Magellan and had arrived safely back in Rotterdam.

The port where Adams ship cast anchor was occupied by the Jesuits missionaries whom Francis Xavier had left under Otomo Sorin's pledge for protection in 1552. The care of Adam's crew and the restoration of their health fell to the Jesuits and the priests also functioned as interpretors for the Japanese.

By the time Adams arrived in Japan the Portugese had been trading in Kyushu for over fifty years and undoubtedly had some political sway in the region. Due to the accusations of some of the Portuguese in the region Adams came under suspicion of being a pirate. The Dutch and English had been waging an ongoing battle at sea with the Spanish and Portuguese in and around Europe for supremacy at sea. Adams had been a commander of a ship in Drake's fleet of ships in the conflict between England and the Spanish Armada in 1588. This was a fact that Adams kept to himself however the fact that he was English was information enough for the Portuguese to be heavy handed with Adams and his crew. He and his crew were jailed and news of their presence in Japan was sent to Tokogawa Ieyasu in Osaka.

At the time of Adams arrival, Tokogawa Ieyasu had just occupied Osaka Castle under the auspieces of being the primary caretaker and advisor of the young Toyotomi Hideyori the apparent heir to the Shogunate. The political shifts of power that would bring Ieyasu to pre-eminence in Japan were just beginning to play out. The first of these shifts was Ieyasu's move into Osaka Castle with the excuse of undertaking an advisorary role to the young Hideyori and his Mother Lady Yodo. This move by Ieyasu had stirred reactions from the council of five, the political regents of Japan, and set the stage for further confrontations between the members of Hideyori's advisorary council.

Hideyori was still just a child of eight when Adams arrived in Japan, and it was Ieyasu who was making the decisions at Osaka Castle. Ieyasu confiscated the "Erasmus" and all of its cargo and had the crew sent to Osaka from Bungo to be jailed at Osaka Castle while he sorted out what was to be done with them.

The cargo of the ship "Erasmus" was a windfall of Dutch and English weaponry of the time. The ship was of 400 ton class and had 26 cannon. The cargo had 550 matchlocks , 5,000 cannon ball and 5,000 lbs of gun powder as well as chain-shot and shrapnell. The ship itself had a figurehead which was described as Eramus holding a book in his hand and was sometimes called the "Charity". This windfall of weaponry and gunpowder was probably used by Tokogawa Ieyasu at the Battle of Sekigahara.

At the time Adams arrived in Japan it had been just over two years since the previous shogun, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, had died. Hideyoshi had been a vassal to Oda Nobunaga and had gained political preemminence and the power and strength to continue the unification Japan. Since his death, the most powerful daimyo in the land, men of noble birth and regents to the juvenile heir of Hideyoshi, had continued their feuding and bids for absolute power. Various factions had begun to form among Hideyoshi's five regents so that the two most powerful contenders for the shogunate, Tokugawa Ieyasu and Ishida Mitsunari were preparing to bring Eastern and Western Japan into conflict and face each other for a final showdown.

Six months from the time of Adams arrival on the morning of October 21, 1600 the transition of power from Toyotomi Hideyoshi to Tokogawa Ieyasu would be determined at the Battle of Sekigahara.

It was William Adams fate to become one of the chief advisors to Ieyasu in his dealings with the European powers.

Osaka Castle

The basic plot for James C lavell's novel "Shogun" is based on the history of William Adams in Japan.

The life and times of St. Francis Xavier, 1512- 1552
Page: 1

Xavier meets Otomo Sorin the King of Bungo,1550
Page: 2

William Adams arrives in Japan, 1600
Page: 3

The Epic Journey of Hasekura Tsunenaga, 1613-1620
Page: 4

James I king of England (1603-1625) and his personal correspondence with Tokugawa Ieyasu Shogun of Japan ( 1600-1616)
Page: 5

The life and times of Hosokawa Sansai.
(1564 - 1645)
Page 6

This Page was co-authored by Chester Comstock in co-operation with Kanayama, For additional information on Kanayama and his collection of Japanese Antiquities from the 16th and 17th Centuries see:
Kanayama Discusses Sukashi Tsuba

Chester Comstock is the Publisher and Editor of and the founder and owner of Comstock Sculpture Studio.

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