Those of us who are old enough to remember the classic, 1980 TV mini-series Shogun starring Richard Chamberlain and Toshiro Mifune will always have a soft spot for William Adams (1564-1620), the first Englishman to find himself in Japan.
Adams' life was an unbelievable adventure story - shipwrecked off the coast of Japan on a Dutch ship the De Liefde, the Kent-born sailor, known in Japan as Miura Anjin ('Pilot'), was spared death and became a confidant of Ieyasu Tokugawa, advising the shogun on matters of navigation and ship-building.
Eventually Adams was granted the title of hatamoto - a samurai in direct service of the shogun - and granted lands and servants near present-day Yokosuka.
Adams moved to Hirado and was instrumental in setting up an English trading post on the island, though he quarreled with the English representative in Japan, John Saris, who disliked Adams for his adoption of a Japanese lifestyle and habits. Adams had taken a Japanese wife, with whom he had two children.
Adams passed away aged 55 on Hirado, a small island off the western coast of Kyushu, south of Fukuoka.
His grave, erected in 1954, is a short walk above the harbor and is a peaceful and evocative spot. A stone from the grave of his English wife was brought over from the UK to lie on Adams' tomb so the two could be reunited.
Another memorial stone at the site records the Englishmen who died in Japan during the 10 years of the English "factory" on Hirado.
Visitors on Hirado can also see Tabira Church, the English Factory established with the help of Adams and the Matsuura Historical Museum.
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