Coastal mie prefecture
Shogun and the toyoura coast
Our discovery of Japan begins the way it did for millions of American baby boomers in September of 1980, by watching the epic television mini series Shogun. This television version of James Clavell’s novel created and reinforced most of the common stereotypes Westerners have about Japan.
The Toyoura Coast in Mie Prefecture, where Shogun was filmed, is our first destination.
Where it began for many Westerners
The Mini Series
Many westerners were unfamiliar with the words ‘Shogun’ or ‘Samurai’ until 1980. However, after the mini series starring Richard Chamberlain and Toshiro Mifune was finished, roughly a third of the American population had incorporated those words into their vocabulary. Why? Let’s take a look at some of the statistics:
- An average of 32.9% of all American television households watched at least part of the series.
- The paperback edition of Clavell’s novel Shogun became the best-selling paperback in the United States, with 2.1 million copies in print during 1980
- Shogun greatly increased awareness of Japanese culture in America.
- The book The Making of James Clavell’s Shōgun states that the rise of Japanese food establishments in the United States (particularly sushi houses) is attributed to the mini series.
So let’s visit the Toyoura Coast and the town of Kihoku along the east coast of Mie Prefecture. The image on the right is linked to the Kihoku Tourist Association’s homepage.
For those of you who enjoy analyzing the historical accuracy of Hollywood productions, Kihoku has nothing to do with William Adams, the English navigator who shipwrecked in Japan in 1600 and went on to become the first non-Japanese samurai. James Clavell based his story on Adams, but Clavell also admits that the story is first and foremost fiction. Kihoku became the fictional village of Anjiro, which the story has located on the Izu peninsula in Shizuoka Prefecture.
Although there is no village of Anjiro on the east coast of Izu, there is a village named Ajiro. It is part of the city of Ito, where Adams actually did build Japan’s first western style ship. There is a replica of that ship in Ito City Hall, and there is a big festival in commemoration of Adams every August. To learn more about William Adams, a simple Google search will give you plenty of background.
Why the production team for Shogun chose Kihoku Town in Mie is a mystery, but it is a beautiful place with lots of history and has a very strong connection to the soul of Japan. Kihoku Town is along the path of a famous Shinto pilgrimage that connects Japan’s most important shrine (Ise) with three other grand shrines. Think of it as Japan’s Camino de Santiago, only a lot shorter. Walking these mountain paths while viewing beautiful islets along Mie’s Pacific coast is indeed a spiritual experience.
Shogun’s fictional village of Anjiro was built by carpenters on a small, uninhabited cove between the tiny villages of Doze (doe-zay) and Minose (me-no-say). The area is still uninhabited. There is a nice park with plenty of parking where you can venture off on an easy, self-guided walk into the hills above for spectacular views.
So what goes on in a little Japanese village? Let's go there and find out!
Sorry! But the corona virus has put a hold on making our trip to Mie. Please be patient and check back.