Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Shōgun: The Epic Novel of Japan (The Asian Saga Book 1)” as Want to Read:
Shōgun: The Epic Novel of Japan (The Asian Saga Book 1)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Shōgun: The Epic Novel of Japan

(Asian Saga: Chronological Order #1)

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  135,806 ratings  ·  3,849 reviews
“Only by living at the edge of death can you understand the indescribable joy of life.”

After Englishman John Blackthorne is lost at sea, he awakens in a place few Europeans know of and even fewer have seen—Nippon. Thrust into the closed society that is late sixteenth-century Japan, a land where the line between life and death is razor-thin, Blackthorne must negotiate not
Kindle Edition, 1249 pages
Published September 11th 2018 by Blackstone Publishing (first published June 1st 1975)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Shōgun, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
DanielL Lance - Thank you for posting the link to “Learning from Shogun”. If others haven’t read it, eight academic scholars of Japanese history, culture,…moreLance - Thank you for posting the link to “Learning from Shogun”. If others haven’t read it, eight academic scholars of Japanese history, culture, language, and literature contributed individual essays to a paper entitled “Learning from Shogun.” The scholars point out the “Western fantasy” of Shogun versus reality; but the fantasy was based on actual events and individuals, e.g., Blackthorne was based on William Adams; Mariko was based on Hosokawa Gracia; Toranaga was based on Tokugawa Ieyasu; Buntaro was based on Hosokawa Tadaoki, etc. The scholars agree that “Shogun” is basically a Western romance fantasy and facts are embellished, but overall, they seem to agree that as a historical fiction, Shogun is a fairly accurate depiction of feudal Japan in the 1600.

The one thing that I didn’t realize until I read “Learning from Shogun” was all the events in the novel “Shogun” took place over a 6-8 month period. Given the length of the novel, I thought it covered several years. (less)
Pantha This book is definitely a stand-alone novel. It has nothing to do with any of the other books in this so-called saga. The only other one that is…moreThis book is definitely a stand-alone novel. It has nothing to do with any of the other books in this so-called saga. The only other one that is somewhat linked would be Gaijin, and only because it's also set in Japan. Gaijin is a sequel to Taipan though, and both of those are great books. Shogun was my first and has always been my favourite.

If you read that, this is actually the first of the series, so you're not missing anything. The next 4 are all related, but I've only read the first two.(less)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.38  · 
Rating details
 ·  135,806 ratings  ·  3,849 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Dec 25, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: my liege Lord
Shelves: 2009
So sorry, I am not worthy of the honor of reviewing this novel. If however, my Lord insists it, then I shall endeavor to offer up some humble thoughts regarding its mighty, even epic narrative. Neh? The scope is so vast, the characters and settings are so many, the head is liable to spin at times, so sorry. But the arc it follows is like a peregrine's path through the sky: long but fast and with vicious twists along what might otherwise have seemed a predictable path. I'm sure my Lord would agree th ...more
Julio Genao
Aug 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Julio by: Number One Uncle
As a picture of Japanese history it suffers from what another reviewer hilariously called (I paraphrase, here) our "round-eyed western mythologized POV."

Which, okay—it was written in the 70's, after all.

But as a story? OMFG what a fucking story.

I fell into this book as a teenager and didn't come back out until I'd read 600,000 words and had a conversational grasp of transliterated Japanese.

Three days. Three days of bliss.

I dare you to read this and not—
Jan 03, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japanese
Japanese people tell me that it's all nonsense: samurai were not in fact ready to commit seppuku at the slightest provocation. They had a strong sense of honor, but were also interested in staying alive. Well, fancy that. Though I'm embarrassed to admit that I believed it when I read the book.

I wish a Japanese author would return the compliment, and write a similarly bogus historical blockbuster about a Japanese hero visiting Europe during the late 16th century and helping Queen Elizabeth I sort out t
Aug 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Fiona by: Kandice Zelaskowski
I have had this book for quite some time in my collection, probably over five years in fact and it wasn't until recently I picked it up, due to a good friend here on GoodReads who prized it as a favourite book.

Strangely, I'd say that I have no real interest in Japan despite having read Memoirs of a Geisha and Tales of the Otori both which are set in Japan or Japanese based. I think Shogun has brought me out of the closet in that respect and I'm very interested now in reading more fiction set in
Hasham Rasool
The Asian Saga: the bestselling novel of feudal Japan.

Oh my! What an awesome book Alhamdulillah! I would recommend anyone who likes to read historical fiction to read this book. Inshallah.

I find it very fascinating to see and learn about Japanese's culture in the book.

James Clavell was one of the great authors. That's my opinion.

My favourite characters are John Blackthorne and Lord Toranaga.

'Shogun' is one of my favourite books. I love this book s
Jul 27, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Yes. I read 1,152 pages of a book I liked less and less as the pages went by. I could have given this 3 stars, maybe, but I was so unsatisfied with it all that I can't do it.

It isn't even that it was unreadable - considering its size, it was a fast read, even though I had to use some special motivational tricks in the end when I just wanted to get it over with. The main problem was that there wasn't a single character I really liked, and god, I hate Blackthorne from the bottom of my very s
Mr. Person
Jul 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
This is the Clavell novel that most people have read -- which is too bad, because in many ways, it is not his best.

Which is not to say it's not very good -- it is. It's amazing. It's... well, just ask anyone who's read it -- you'll not find someone who didn't like it. But the historical anthropology of the book isn't as well integrated into the narrative as it is in, say, Whirlwind or Noble House.

That being said, this is a remarkable work -- it is perhaps the most sweeping of Clavell's epics, in t
Jul 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'll sum up my review here in the combined edition.

It's more than 1200 pages long and it's not long enough. This book can be described with only one word - amazing. The first page sucks you in and keep you in the edge till the end. You never know what will happen next and what awaits in the next corner.

Shogun showed me a new side of the world, it changed my views on many things, and made me understand just as many things.

I had one more page till the end and I had no idea what will happen, the
This book struck me as the love child of Game of Thrones and Under Heaven which is tricky since this book was written in the 1970's (I imagine time travel was involved). This book had the political maneuvering and fight scenes reminiscent of Game of Thrones and the wide ranging narrative and historical context of Under Heaven. In this case early 17th century Japan (the Sengoku Period), a time of great uncertainty and flux. It is in this heady brew of intrigue and power politics that the story unfolds.

This book is popu
Jun 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japan, 2018
Here's a book about Japan written 40 years ago by a white guy, and that means we get to play our favorite game: Is! It! Racist!

And unfortunately you get everyone's least favorite answer: Sortof. The only really bad part is that all the Japanese ladies are like obsessed with how huge white guys' dicks are, sigh. The rest of it is pretty much your run-of-the-mill Asian glorification, look how wise and noble they are, do you know they have this thing where they drink tea from an empty cup, so deep, watch
Amanda Clay
Jan 28, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fun and fascinating read, not only on its own merits, but also as part of what I like to call the 'male romance' genre. This, along with other manly titles like 'From Here to Eternity', make me giggle because they so closely parallel women's romance novels in the point-by-point adherence to a checklist of what their reader desires. And Shogun hits all the points: a handsome, tall, well-endowed man is, by virtue of his awesomeness, the ONLY person who could succeed in a dangerous situat ...more
Amazing read! I love how this boatload of Dutch sailors is coming to Japan and they seem so familiar and they come to the island of Japan and they seem to have strange customs. Then our main character, Blackthorn or Anjin-san is swept up into the warring states with Toranaga. They begin to seem very normal and they begin to make sense and Anjin-san changes with the book and learns their culture. By the end of the book when the Dutch sailors come back at the end they seem like filthy barbarians. ...more
Back in the summer of 1976 my father was very ill. He spent most of that summer in the hospital and my mother bought him dozens of books to read. In 1976 cable was in it's infancy and VCR's were toys for technophiles and the wealthy. Mom focused on buying big thick books and Shogun was one of those books. I was eight years old at the time and utterly fascinated by it's massiveness. When the mini-series aired four years later I watched all of it with my parents. I remember the plot being complicated an ...more
Melanie Zhang
Nov 30, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
To be honest - I couldn't finish this book. It's so atrocious, on so many levels, that I got exactly 75% of the way through and then gave up. The only reason I got so far was because this book was recommended to me by a friend, but nothing could possibly persuade me to continue reading this racist, sexist, extremely problematic monstrosity.

Where to begin? This book is the standard white male fantasy. Glorious wonderful strong white male with a canonically-mentioned giant dick (so ver
May 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Back in 1980 there was a TV miniseries about this book starring Richard Chamberlain. I was a kid but recalled watching it and enjoying watching the samurai with their katanas and the alien culture described. Clavell’s book was first published in 1975 and this seemed to have sparked a resurgence of interest in Japanese culture, highlighted by John Belushi’s samurai character on Saturday Night Live.

Back in 1980 there was a TV miniseries about this book starring Richard Chamberlain. I was a kid but recalled watching it and enjoying watching the samurai with their katanas and the alien culture described. Clavell’s book was first published in 1975 and this seemed to have sparked a resurgence of interest in Japanese culture, highlighted by John Belushi’s samurai character on Saturday Night Live.



James Clavell’s landmark masterpiece about English sailor John Blackthorne, called Anjin-san in the book, and of his immersion in and adoption of Japanese culture remains a formidable accomplishment today. Like War and Peace, this massive tome (1100 page plus size) seems to have it all: metaphor, allegory, historical narrative, social, economic and cultural commentary, philosophy; and exploring themes of religion, gender roles, family, duty, honor, courage – and all within the rubric of a dichotomy between east and west represented by Blackthorne’s 1600 landfall on the coast of Japan.

To be sure, this comparison and contrast between the two divergent societies is what holds this rambling behemoth together. When Blackthorne arrives there is already a generations old Western presence in the guise of Portuguese sailors and Jesuit priests. Many Japanese have converted to Catholicism, but conflicts with their own way of thinking is also a ubiquitous element in this enthralling work.

Clavell’s writing, though sometimes long winded to say the least, is inspired, well researched and captivating. Also notable is his dialogue and characterization which is superb. Another noteworthy aspect of this book is the role of communication and the vital role translations – Japanese, Portuguese, Latin, Dutch and English – have in the plot. Blackthorne makes great efforts to understand and be understood and this has much to do with his transcendency and the dynamic nature of his role in the story.

While Clavell populates his novel with literally dozens and dozens of colorful players, three central protagonists stand out.

John Blackthorne / Anjin-san. A pilot and navigator from England, working on a Dutch vessel, his seamanship and oceanographic knowledge makes him and invaluable captive for the Japanese. His heroism and loyalty, and his easy conversion to Japanese ways, makes him a principal figure in the story. Blackthorne is the western guide to Japan, his introduction provides the same to western readers.

Lady Mariko. A Christian convert, but also a samurai (yes, women can be) she befriends Blackthorne and is also loyal to Toranaga. Her inner conflicts about the distinctions between what is demanded from her faith and what was required by her station makes her one of the most compelling characters, but it is her steadfast courage that makes her a great character. Her defiance of Ishido (the central antagonist) and the resulting battle is one of the most memorable scenes in the book.

Toranaga. The most important character, he is the eponymous Shogun, and it is his patronage that allows Blathorne to live and thrive. It is Toranaga’s masterful intrigues that form the basis for most of the narrative and we see that his is the hand that guides much of the action.

Christianity – Catholicism and Protestant. The Japanese are surprised to learn that the Portuguese and Spanish priests are not the only Christians in the world. The Protestant English and Dutch animosity with Catholic Spain and Portugal further complicates the group dynamics and makes a more intriguing fecundity of opportunity for Clavell to develop such a hypnotic story.

East vs West – Japan and the bushido culture. One commentator on this book stated that it was "one of the most effective depictions of cross-cultural encounters ever written". Clavell has achieved not just an epic novel of feudal Japan, but more importantly and impressively, has crafted an exhaustive comparison of the two civilizations.

Cleanliness. A pervasive element of the book was the difference in hygiene between the two societies. I’ve frequently watched some film about medieval life in Europe and thought, “what did they smell like?” Pretty bad if we can believe Blackthorne as a comparative observer and a convert to hot baths and clean living. Europe at that time was described as ignorant and filthy and I think Clavell did good to highlight this contrast.

Seppuku. A frequent criticism of the book from Japanese readers is Clavell’s over utilization of the bushido way of honorable self-sacrifice. That’s fair, it seemed like every few pages some character could not live with dishonor and asked permission to commit seppuku. How death, and conversely life, was valued between the two belief systems was also a theme Clavell explored and was a crucial element in the narrative.

Wildly successful, Clavell later stated that the book made him. Besides the miniseries, there was also a Broadway play and several computer games. The success also no doubt assisted in sales for his other books and allowed Clavell to produce his Asian saga.

An excellent book.

The Dutch ship “Erasmus” is wrecked off the Japanese shores and its English captain, together with his crew, is taken prisoner by the Japanese, who also confiscate their ship and all their belongings. Here they will encounter the Jesuit Spanish and Portuguese priests who want to Christianize the whole country and the Japanese daimyo and samurai who are preparing for war.

Blackthorne, the English captain and also the main character, will face death, humiliation, prison and betrayal countless time
Nov 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is The One

My favourite book of all time. The one that transported me far away and long ago. The one that made our world cease to exist. The one that I read every spare minute of every day, even in elevators; a half page now and then. And when I was within 300 pages of the end, I stayed up all night and the morning to finish.

I became Anjin-san in the magical world of feudal Japan.

Ten years later in 1985 I read it again. Magic, power, intrigue, JAPAN. I'm about due now, to rea/>My
Manuel Antão
Nov 10, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1980
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

SF or Not: "Shogun" by James Clavell

(Original Review, 1980-09-26)

I think all of the argument around SHOGUN and SF is amusing, but I think that the perspective is about as one-sided as that in the movie.

Ask someone in Tokyo (where both a shorter 2.5 hour movie as well as the five-day/twelve hour TV series showed) if s/he thought SHOGUN was Science Fiction or not. You'll
Sophia Triad
This is one of these books…
There are some books that may influence your life and the way you think.
There are some books that are tied with your childhood and when you grow up you will feel choked with emotion when you read them again.

When this book was firstly published in English, I was just born.
When the TV series was firstly shown on US TV, I was five years old.
A few years later, it was introduced in Greek TV. I was less than 8 years love but I fell in love with
Whew! Finally done. This book was a roller-coaster from start to finish, even when it didn't seem like there was anything going on. It took me 24 days to read, which, despite the book's length, was about 17 days too long, give or take. I chose my timing poorly with this book, deciding to read it right before leaving for a major vacation, which meant that I had little to no time to read. :(

But, despite that, my enjoyment of this book was not lessened even a little bit. Clavell's depic
Sep 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Also a well done movie, but if you saw that first do NOT let it stop you from reading the book. It's fantastic. I don't know anything about the Japanese culture, but I hope he didn't get much wrong, because he makes me feel like I do. The in-depth look at the culture & times is very well done. There is plenty of action, romance & suspense.

I was totally sucked into the culture, the restrictions of the society & their ideas of honor, just as our hero was. Thankfully, I coul
Mar 06, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I DID IT! The OCD part of me wouldn't let me just cast this giant bore of an "epic saga" aside even though I was pretty much done with it 30 percent in. Instead, I did quite the dance of avoiding it, neglecting Goodreads, and then, in a mad dash of ambition partly brought on by Scorsese’s film Silence, completing it by my self-imposed December 31st deadline.

We all know I've been complaining about this book for the past six months, so there's no other rating for me to give than a solid, satisfying one s
This book surprised me, in a positive way, for I hadn't expected to like it as much as I did. And for once, I am happily walking past its flaws for the sake of the overall narrative quality. Why not? It has everything I enjoy in HF: interesting protagonists and ever as interesting secondaries, insanely labyrinthine politics, clever schemers, bittersweet romance, good pace that rarely falters, battles, daring escapes, humorous and comic scenes, a not usual setting... Pitted against all that, any ...more
Bloody brilliant - re read after a 20 year gap after GR peer group pressure and upgraded from 3 to 5 stars. Pleased to find memory of goldfish so remembered almost nothing from previous read and that had seriously done an injustice with previous rating,

The writing isnt always frist class but at the same time Clavell perfectly encaptures the delicacies of the Samurai code of honour and Japanese life at that time. Its gruesome and bloody and coarse but the plots and counter plots and i
May 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Captain-Pilot John Blackthorne manages to will the horribly-undermanned Erasmus through a brutal storm and lands in on the Japanese coast in 1600. This would be an interesting story in and of itself but the country is on the brink of a single dynasty-birthing battle and with his big well-armed European ship and knowledge of the outside world Blackthrone quickly gets sucked into the boiling pot of intrigues and tensions that can only be resolved through the eventual deaths of thousands. Who wouldn't wan ...more
Jun 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: desert-island
5-star rating system does no justice to "Shogun" - give it SEVEN stars.

Brilliant historical novel surrounding the events of Ieaysu's victory/consolidation of warlords in Japan ca. 1600.

Mostly told through the eyes of an English navigator - who gradually becomes Japanese as the story unfolds.

This story has everything - chivalry, honor, romance, ambition, war, violence, expert characterization, compelling plot, keen conception of Japanese Culture.
Jane Stewart
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Scott Sigler
An absolutely spectacular tale of a stranger in a strange land, an epic example of world building at the highest scale, and a truncated end so defeating and abrupt it seems clear an editor called Mr. Clavell one day and said, "James, look, it's 1600 pages long and we can't sell that, so cut it down to 1,200. How? Hell, I don't know, how about you chop off the last 400 pages that include the giant battle you've been building up to in the first thousand pages?"

I wanted to love this book, and I di
Jan 23, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Here’s the good: Clavell’s historical fiction is bright in that it draws the reader into a time and place with minimal effort. I was drawn to know more about the unpredictable protagonist—Blackthorn—as well as other thoughtful characters, and ended up learning a lot about 17th Century Japan and gained some nuances and insights into ancient Japanese culture.

The first several hundred pages of this behemoth are great. The next few hundred, not so much… was this guy getting paid by the w
Sep 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A multiple read favorite that lead me to other books with same setting.

Endo's duo of Samurai and Silence
The Samurai
Village life in a coastal Japanese village
The Shogun's rule
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Kastel Awan Burung Gereja (Samurai, #1)
  • Lord of the Flies
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter, #7)
  • Hawaii
  • The Far Pavilions
  • Flashman in the Great Game (The Flashman Papers, #5)
  • Musashi
  • War and Remembrance (The Henry Family, #2)
  • Exodus
  • The Grass Crown (Masters of Rome, #2)
  • Pawn in Frankincense (The Lymond Chronicles, #4)
  • River God (Ancient Egypt, #1)
  • The Handmaid's Tale
  • Aztec (Aztec, #1)
  • Sharpe's Triumph (Sharpe, #2)
See similar books…
James Clavell, born Charles Edmund Dumaresq Clavell was a British novelist, screenwriter, director and World War II veteran and POW. Clavell is best known for his epic Asian Saga series of novels and their televised adaptations, along with such films as The Great Escape, The Fly and To Sir, with Love.


James Clavell. (2007, November 10). In Wikipedia, The Free E/>James

Other books in the series

Asian Saga: Chronological Order (6 books)
  • Tai-Pan (Asian Saga, #2)
  • Gai-Jin (Asian Saga, #3)
  • King Rat (Asian Saga, #4)
  • Noble House (Asian Saga, #5)
  • Whirlwind (Asian Saga, #6)
“Karma is the beginning of knowledge. Next is patience. Patience is very important. The strong are the patient ones, Anjin-san. patience means holding back your inclination to the seven emotions: hate, adoration, joy, anxiety, anger, grief, fear. If you don't give way to the seven, you're patient, then you'll soon understand all manner of things and be in harmony with Eternity.” 230 likes
“Always remember, child" her first teacher had impressed on her, "that to think bad thoughts is really the easiest thing in the world. If you leave your mind to itself it will spiral you down into ever-increasing unhappiness. To think good thoughts, however, requires effort. This is one of the things that need disipline –training- is about. So train your mind to dwell on sweet perfumes, the touch of this silk, tender raindrops against the shoji, the curve of the flower arrangement, the tranquillity of dawn. Then, at length, you won't have to make such a great effort and you will be of value to yourself,…” 153 likes
More quotes…