ON THE TRAIL OF WILLIAM ADAMS
A look at the life of this 16th century English adventurer turned 17th century Japanese baron. In 2011 I visited many of the places associated with William Adams during his life in Japan, including Yokosuka city to the south of Tokyo, Uraga and the Miura Peninsula, and Ito and the Izu Peninsula. Adams’s story has been the subject of a great deal of mythmaking in the West. Our most fundamental fascination with history is to imagine what it would be like to look through the eyes of a person who lived 400 or a thousand years ago.
In 2005 I visited Nagasaki. It was in the southern island of Kyushu that Adams’s Japan odyssey began in the year 1600, and at Hirado in Nagasaki Prefecture that he died in 1620, and where his grave can be seen today.
William Adams 1564-1620
Tsukayama Park and the Anjin Miura Memorial
William Adams, known locally as Miura Anjin-sama, was granted the fief of Hemi by Tokugawa Ieyasu. Adams lived in this area with wife Magome Oyuki, dividing his time between his fief and the nearby port town of Uraga, where he worked alongside Mukai Shogen, chief of the navy, to build a fleet of ships of European design.
Tsukayama Park spans the hills above Hemi and Anjinzuka in present day Yokosuka city. The Anjinzuka memorial overlooks the city of Yokosuka with views of Tokyo Bay toward Tokyo. In his last will and testament, William Adams requested burial in a high place with a view of Edo so he could continue to repay the shogun’s kindness and watch over Edo even after his death.
Tsukayama Park and the Miura Anjin and Magome Oyuki Memorial
William Adams, known locally as Miura Angin-sama, was granted the fief of Hemi by Tokugawa Ieyasu and he lived in this area with wife Magome Oyuki, dividing his time between here and the nearby port town of Uraga where he owned an estate and where he worked alongside Mukai Shogen, chief of the navy, to build a fleet of ships incorporating European design.
Tsukayama Park is located in the area above Hemi and Anjinzuka in present day Yokosuka city. The Anjinzuka memorial overlooks the city of Yokosuka with views of Tokyo Bay toward Tokyo. In his last will and testament William Adams is said to have requested burial in a high place with a view of Edo so he could continue to repay the shogun's kindness and watch over Edo even after his death.
Impressed by William Adams, Tokugawa Ieyasu commissioned him to work with Mukai Shogen to build a fleet of Western style ships, one of the Shogun’s many initiatives that would resonate through Japan to the present day. The navy was based at the harbour of Uraga on the Miura Peninsula, the traditional entry point into Tokyo Bay. William Adams’s estate overlooked the Harbour.
Ito on the Izu Peninsula
Artefacts from the time of William Adams
The site of William Adams’s apartment in Edo, Nihombashi, Tokyo.
“Adams, now very successful in his role as diplomatic counselor to Ieyasu, established a home near Nihombashi of Edo, and began to be called “The Blue-Eyed Samurai.” His fiefdom was called Hemi, a village with 90 houses and a rice production sometimes said to be 220 and sometimes 250 koku. Upon receiving this gift, the “Blue-Eyed Samurai” took an official new name: with “Miura,” for the Miura Peninsula, as his last name and “Anjin,” meaning “pilot,” as his first name, he became “Miura Anjin.” – ‘William Adams and Yokosuka’, Yokosuka City Museum.
Edo apartment, Nihombashi, Tokyo.
William Adams's home in Edo was here in Nihombashi in modern day Tokyo.