William Adams

William Adams (24 September 1564 – 16 May 1620), known in Japanese as Anjin Miura (三浦按針: "the pilot of Miura"), was an English navigator who travelled to Japan and is believed to be the first Englishman ever to reach that country. The Wikipedia text about him is admirably full and detailed.

As Wikipedia says: In April 1600, after more than nineteen months at sea, the Dutch ship Liefde with a crew of about twenty sick and dying men (out of an initial crew of about 100) was brought to anchor off the island of Kyūshū, Japan. . . . they made landfall on 19 April off Bungo (present-day Usuki, Ōita Prefecture). The ship was seized and the sickly crew were imprisoned at Osaka Castle on orders by Tokugawa Ieyasu, the daimyo of Edo and future Shogun (whom Adams calls "the old king").  Ieyasu seized power in 1600, received appointment as shogun in 1603, abdicated from office in 1605, but remained in power until his death in 1616. Adams met Ieyasu in Osaka three times between May and June 1600. He was questioned by Ieyasu, then a guardian of the young son of the Taikō, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the ruler who had died in 1598. Soon after Adams' arrival in Japan, he became a key advisor to the shogun and built Japan's first Western-style ships for him. Adams was later the key player in the establishment of trading factories by the Netherlands and England. He was also highly involved in Japan's Red Seal Asian trade, chartering and captaining several ships to Southeast Asia. He died in Japan at age 55.

The Liefde was originally called the Erasmus. This statue of Erasmus seems to have been fixed to the stern of the ship. It is preserved among the treasures of a Japanese temple.

Japanese armor sent to King James of England by Toyotomi Hideyoshi

The Bay of Hirado, with the English Factory flying the red cross of England on the left side, the Dutch factory being the last building to the right with its flag. The large central compound was the seat of the Matsuura lords.

The Dutch factory in Hirado

Other survivors of the Liefde were also rewarded with favours and even allowed to pursue foreign trade. Most of the original crew were able to leave Japan in 1605 with the help of the daimyo of Hirado. The Liefde's captain, Jacob Quaeckernaeck, and the treasurer, Melchior van Santvoort, were sent by Ieyasu in 1604 on a shogun-licensed Red Seal Ship to Patani in Southeast Asia to contact the Dutch East India Company trading factory which had just been established there in 1602, to bring more western trade to Japan and break the Portuguese monopoly on Japan's external trade. In 1605, Adams obtained a letter from Ieyasu formally inviting the Dutch to trade with Japan. Two Dutch ships, commanded by Jacques Specx, De Griffioen (the "Griffin", 19 cannons) and Roode Leeuw met Pijlen (the "Red lion with arrows", 400 tons, 26 cannons), were finally sent from Holland and arrived in Japan on 2 July 1609. Adams negotiated on behalf of these emissaries. The Dutch obtained free trading rights throughout Japan (in contrast, the Portuguese were only allowed to sell their goods in Nagasaki at fixed, negotiated prices) and to establish a trading factory there. After obtaining this trading right through an edict of Tokugawa Ieyasu on 24 August 1609, the Dutch inaugurated a trading factory in Hirado (then known as Firado) on 20 September 1609. The "trade pass" (Dutch: Handelspas) was kept preciously by the Dutch in Hirado and then Dejima as a guarantee of their trading rights, during the following two centuries of their presence in Japan.  Later, the Dutch traders had to abandon Hirado for the more constricting confines of Dejima, a small artificial island in the present-day city of Nagasaki. The last Kapitan at Hirado and the first one at Dejima was François Caron, who oversaw the transfer in 1641.

Hirado had been a port of call for ships between the Asian mainland and Japan since the Nara period. During the Kamakura and Muromachi periods, the local Matsuura clan held the rights to trade with Korea and with Sung Dynasty China. In mid-1550, Francis Xavier had visited Hirado after a difficult period in Kagoshima, by which time Portuguese ships were already visiting there. He only stayed 2 months before going on to Yamaguchi and Kyoto. In Hirado, he was welcomed by the daimyo, Matsuura Takanobu (1529-99). When Adams arrived in Japan, he and his Dutch companions were fiercely denounced by the Portuguese and Spanish Jesuits who wanted to see them killed. The fact that Tokugawa Ieyasu took such a liking to Adams suggests that he at once realized that he was not like the Catholic priests and the Portuguese traders. To suggest (as Wikipedia seems to do) that it was Adams who turned him against the Catholic faith as such might be too radical a step.

The shogun took a liking to Adams and made him a revered diplomatic and trade advisor and bestowed great privileges upon him. Ultimately, Adams became his personal advisor on all things related to Western powers and civilisation and, after a few years, Adams replaced the Jesuit Padre João Rodrigues as the Shogun's official interpreter. Padre Valentim Carvalho wrote: "After he had learned the language, he had access to Ieyasu and entered the palace at any time"; he also described him as "a great engineer and mathematician". Adams had a wife and children in England but Ieyasu had forbidden the Englishman to leave Japan. He was presented with two swords representing the authority of a Samurai. The Shogun decreed that William Adams the pilot was dead and that Miura Anjin (三浦按針), a samurai, was born. This made Adams's wife in England in effect a widow (although Adams managed to send regular support payments to her after 1613 via the English and Dutch companies) and "freed" Adams to serve the Shogunate on a permanent basis. Adams also received the title of hatamoto (bannerman), a high-prestige position as a direct retainer in the Shogun's court. He married Oyuki (お雪), the daughter of Magome Kageyu, a highway official who was in charge of a packhorse exchange on one of the grand imperial roads that led out of Edo (roughly present day Tokyo).  Adams and Oyuki had a son called Joseph and a daughter named Susanna.

He was provided with generous revenues: "For the services that I have done and do daily, being employed in the Emperor's service, the emperor has given me a living" (Letters). He was granted a fief in Hemi (Jpn: 逸見) within the boundaries of present-day Yokosuka City, "with eighty or ninety husbandmen, that be my slaves or servants" (Letters). His estate was valued at 250 koku (a measure of the yearly income of the land in rice, with one koku defined as the quantity of rice sufficient to feed one person for one year). Adams' estate was located next to the harbour of Uraga, the traditional point of entrance to Edo Bay, where he is recorded to have dealt with the cargoes of foreign ships.

In 1611, news came to Adams of an English settlement in Banten, Indonesia, and he sent a letter asking them to give news of him to his family and friends in England and enticing them to engage in trade with Japan which "the Hollanders have here an Indies of money". In 1613, the English captain John Saris arrived at Hirado in the ship Clove with the intent of establishing a trading factory for the British East India Company. Adams travelled with Saris to Shizuoka where they met with Ieyasu at his principal residence in September and then continued to Kamakura where they visited the famous Buddha (the 1252 Daibutsu on which the sailors etched their names) before moving on to Edo where they met Ieyasu's son Hidetada who was now nominally Shogun even though Ieyasu retained most of the actual decision-making powers. During that meeting, Hidetada gave Saris two varnished suits of armour for King James I, today housed in the Tower of London. On their way back, they again visited Tokugawa, who conferred trading privileges to the English through a Red Seal permit giving them "free license to abide, buy, sell and barter" in Japan. The English party headed back to Hirado on 9 October 1613. On this occasion, Adams asked for and obtained Tokugawa's authorisation to return to his home country. However, he ultimately declined Saris' offer to bring him back to England (the two men disliked one another intensely).

Instead, Adams accepted employment with the newly founded Hirado trading factory, signing a contract on 24 November 1613, becoming an employee of the East India Company for the yearly salary of 100 English Pounds, more than double the regular salary of 40 Pounds earned by the other factors at Hirado. Adams was to take a leading part, under Richard Cocks and together with six other compatriots (Tempest Peacock, Richard Wickham, William Eaton, Walter Carwarden, Edmund Sayers and William Nealson), in the organisation of this new English settlement. During the ten-year activity of the company between 1613 and 1623, apart from the first ship (the Clove in 1613), only three other English ships brought cargoes directly from London to Japan, invariably described as poor value on the Japanese market. Adams had actually advised against the choice of Hirado, which was small and far away from the major markets in Osaka and Edo, and instead had recommended to Saris, in vain, that they should select Uraga near Edo. Adams had a townhouse in Edo and seems mainly to have lived there.

The texts of various letters written by Adams and others can be seen in separate pages.

Letter written by William Adams in 1613.

Marker beside the street at Hirado

Stone marking the location of the room where Adams died.

The latter part of his life was spent in the service of the English trading company. He undertook a number of voyages to Siam in 1616 and Cochin China in 1617 and 1618, sometimes for the English East India Company, sometimes for his own account. He is recorded in Japanese sources as the owner of a Red Seal Ship of 500 tons.

Adams died at Hirado on 16 May 1620, aged 55 and was buried there. The English factory was dissolved three years after his death due to its unprofitability. In his will, he left his townhouse in Edo, his fief in Hemi, and 500 British pounds to be divided evenly between his family in England and his family in Japan. Adams' son also kept the title of Miura Anjin and was a successful trader until the closure of the country in 1635 when he disappeared from historical records.

The memorial to Adams at the top of the park above the site of the Dutch Factory. The stone on the left would be the original marker, that to the right commemorates his English wife and contains a stone from her grave.

The main memorial

The description beside the monument.