William Adams and Jan Joosten: Two of the first Western Samurai

Here is an article about the two Western Samurai written in the history books. Though only a few were ever mentioned, these two made the top list. William Adams and Jan Joosten were among those listed and recognized non-Japanese Samurai in Japan.

William Adams – The First Englishman to visit Japan

Early Life

Will Adams was born in Gillingham, Kent, on 24th September 1564. He grew up in the Medway town. Before becoming an apprentice to a shipbuilder on the Thames, he joined the Royal Navy. He was under Sir Francis Drake against the Spanish Armada. In brief, Young Will learned his trade. So in 1598, he went on to navigate a fleet of ships to Japan. Unfortunately, they lost most of the ships even before they reached the Pacific. Consequently, out of a crew of about 100, there were only about 30 left. Tragically, his brother Thomas was one of many who died during the expedition. They eventually sailed across the Pacific to Japan.

Arriving in Japan

Upon his arrival in Japan, Will Adams became a key advisor to the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. Soon, he built for him Japan’s first Western-styled ships. They gave credit to him for being the first Englishman to visit Japan. Later, Adams became a major player in the establishment of trading factories. These were by Netherlands and England. Even more, they presented him with two Samurai swords representing the authority of a Samurai. So the Shogun decreed that Will Adams is now a Samurai. Despite his friendship with the Shogun, they told Will that he cannot leave Japan with his head. Seems like his death was the only way out. Later, the Shogun explained this action freed Adams from serving the Shogunate permanently. Hence, effectively making Adam’s wife in England a widow.

Photo Credit: Kanō Tan’yū

Adams Role in Japan

Now settled in Japan, Will married Oyuki, the daughter of Magome Kageyu. He was a noble Samurai. Together with Oyuki, they had a son Joseph and a daughter Susanna. At that time, they asked Will to build two galleons. In this case, these were the first ones ever made in Japan. One of which successfully sailed across the Pacific Ocean to Nueva Espana in 1609. While doing so, he warned against the Trinity policy of Christianity. Similarly on trade, and the incursion of the Catholic. Furthermore, he exhorted for strong ties with Protestant countries. It reflected a deep understanding of power shifting among global powers. And these were taking place around the 1600s.

Adams requested for diplomatic envoys of Holland and Britain to come to Japan. He put efforts to open the trading offices of Holland and Britain in Hirado, Nagasaki. Unfortunately, Britain failed to compete with the Dutch East India Company. So it closed in 1623. However, the Shogunate used Adams’ diplomatic legacy and deepened their Western studies. They did this via the Dutch trading office throughout the Edo period.

Towards His Last Years

While in England, Will’s wife received this message. “Therefore I do pray and entreat you in the name of Jesus Christ to do so much as to make my being here in Japan known to my poor wife, in a manner a widow and my two children fatherless; which thing only is my greatest grief of heart and conscience.”

Will Adams died at Hirado, north of Nagasaki, on 16 May 1620, aged 55. They erected a statue in his honor in Hirado. They buried him in Hirado, Nagasaki Prefecture. Where he is probably better known than in his native country of England. In the meantime, they remember and endear him as the blue-eyed Samurai by the Japanese.

Since 2000, there has been a Will Adams festival. Every September in Gillingham, they celebrate the culture and traditions of Japan. Namely through displays and workshops.

Photo Credit: en.wikipedia.org
Photo Credit: www.wikitree.com

Jan Joosten van Lodensteiyn

Jan Joosten van Lodensteiyn was an operator of the Dutch East India Company (VOC). He initially touched base in Japan in 1600 on board De Liefde or The Love. It was a Dutch galleon that navigated the high seas reaching Japan on 19 April 1600. Particularly, it was the First Dutch ship. Joosten and his crew were the first Dutchmen (including William Adams) to ever make a trip to Japan.

On Board the Love Boat – De Leifde

De Liefde left Europe among other four different mariner boats. It was set to test in challenging the Iberian cartel in the Japanese barter. When they landed in Japan on 7th of March 1600, in any case, De Liefde was the main ship left. Joosten and Adams were among 21 who persisted of what was initially a 110-man team. First, they kept most of the crew in confinement while Joosten and Adams among others went to the Shogun. Soon they presented themselves to Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu on March 29. Maybe April 10 on estimated records.

Tokugawa and Friends

Tokugawa Ieyasu was the first Shogun and founder of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan. Ieyasu later brought the two men into his administration. Utilizing Joosten as a mediator and allowing him a 100 Koku Fief or a massive estate close to Nagasaki. Also a manor outside of the Wada Kuramon entryway in the Hibiya region of Edo. In Japanese, they referred to Joosten as Yayôsu. As a result, the manor close to his zone became known as Yaesu.

In 1609, VOC formally settled an industrial facility in Japan. Joosten started working more for them. While likewise allowed a red seal permit. While also connecting with the Southeast Asia exchange. Later on in 1613, the British East India Company set up its Japanese processing plant. Joosten started utilizing his connection with Ieyasu. He pushed for more noteworthy Dutch benefits. Including the mortification of Richard Cocks, leader of the British plant. Cocks became known to have sent endowments to Joosten’s better half and child in 1616. However, there was little knowledge about Joosten’s Japanese spouse or child.

In His Last Years

In the mid-1620s, Joosten endeavored to return home to the Netherlands. First to the Dutch East India Company settlement at Batavia. Unfortunately, he was powerless to settle a rightful entry back to Europe. Joosten chose to come back to Japan. On his way, his ship experienced distress and got separated while out adrift. Joosten never made it and tragically drowned in the South China Sea in 1623.

Today, the Japanese named the southern exit of the exchange caravan post in Tokyo after him. As well as a street in the Nihonbashi district.

Photo Credit: en.wikipedia.org

Stay in Touch

To follow the best weight loss journeys, success stories and inspirational interviews with the industry's top coaches and specialists. Start changing your life today!

Related Articles