you play the role of resourceful English seaman John Blackthorne,
Pilot-Major of the Dutch trader-warship Erasmus, which
is on a secret mission of trade and plunder to the Spanish-dominated
The year is 1600,
and the powerful Catholic empire of Spain and Portugal is
locked in a death struggle with the upstart Protestant nations
of England and Holland. The catholic nations have spread their
political and religious influence across the world, reaching
as far as China and the almost mythical land of Japan, extracting
great wealth in spices and precious metals. Their extensive
knowledge of the Asian seaways is highly secret information
coveted by English and Dutch traders. But while the European
battle each other, a longer and even more vicious struggle
is raging among the feudal lords of Japan.
of years of anarchy, Japan was unified by the great warrior
Nakamura, who became Taiko, or military ruler. But the Taiko
has died, leaving as heir a seven-year-old boy, and a five-man
Council of Regents to rule in his name. The dominant figures
of the Council are Lord Taranaga and Lord Ishido. Each is
a daimyo: powerful warrior-rulers who follow the ancient samurai
traditions. Each harbors the ambition to be Shogun: supreme
ruler under the divine but nearly powerless emperor.
Toranaga and Ishido
are backed by lesser daimyos and hordes of Samurai. They jockey
for position, nearly evenly matched, looking for any way of
bolstering their chances. Perhaps the Jesuits will swing their
support behind one candidate, or hostages will neutralize
a powerful supporter. The balance is delicate, and the appearance
of the Erasmus creates excitement and new possibilities.
It is into the
center of this momentous conflict that you, John Blackthorne,
have been thrown, and soon you discover that the perils of
the sea are almost trifling compared to the danger and intrigue
among the samurai lords of Japan.
Life in Japan can
be a hazardous affair. If you choose the wrong friends or
confidants, you may find your head detached from your body.
But strict adherence to the rules of etiquette, some judicious
questions, and careful listening will enhance your pleasure,
prestige, and prospects for survival.