Samurai William by Giles Milton

Before the two century exclusion of foreigners in Japan which ended in the mid-1800s, a remarkable Englishman called William Adams spent many years there on behalf of his countrymen, eventually “going native” and becoming a friend of the de facto ruler of the country. Milton’s book tells the amazing tale of that event, using never before published first hand sources.

In the early 1600s it took around two years to reach Japan, a country hardly known to Europeans, and on the way disease, piracy and lack of a common language were not the only problems. The book tells many stories, not just that of the remarkable Samurai William, presenting the reader with a rich tapestry of tales.

What comes across most is the culture shock between English and Japanese, and the extreme sadism and brutality of the Japanese. Milton uses his first hand sources with enthusiasm, telling a superb tale.

Very enjoyable, impeccably researched and well written, this is a book for lay historians and readers of Elizabethan derring-do. Recommended.