Why Did Toranaga Burn John Or Anjin’s Ship In ‘Shogun’ Episode 10?


John Blackthorne and his English crew started a voyage to Japan to establish trade links with the country and compete against their sworn enemies, the Portuguese Catholics. However, after a difficult journey, as soon as they arrived in the fishing village of Ajiro, they were quickly captured by the samurai. The village lord Omi seized their ship and brought Pilot John and his crew ashore so that they could understand the motive for their arrival. Little did John know at that moment that he would never set foot on his ship, Erasmus, again.

After John’s outrageous behavior in Shogun episode 8, Lord Yoshii Toranaga lost his trust in the Anjin. He saw him in the same light as Yabushige, who would betray Toranaga as per his convenience. But John was no Yabushige, and Toranaga understood that as well. That was the reason why he wanted to test John’s loyalty even after he raised his voice against the Lord and decided to revolt against him. After Mariko’s death in episode 9, John lost his way completely. He had only one thing in mind, i.e., to return to England and spend the rest of his life in peace. Ishido, on the other hand, had many important matters to attend to after Toranaga declared war upon him, which is why he decided to let Yabushige and Anjin leave Osaka and wait for his orders.

But John had too many enemies in Osaka, especially the Portuguese. He had become completely defenseless and vulnerable after his fallout with Toranaga. In short, John was never meant to return from Osaka alive. But Lady Mariko intervened and made an arrangement with the church to spare Anjin’s life. Father Ajiro kept his word and escorted John safely to the port himself so that he could fulfill Mariko’s last wish. Surprisingly, Toranaga also knew about this arrangement, and he could have killed Anjin sooner or later, but he didn’t because the barbarian amused him. Instead of spilling his blood, Toranaga decided to test John’s loyalty towards him and his subjects by burning his trading ship Erasmus and putting the entire blame on his sworn enemies, the Catholic Christians. 

Now John, who had been a non-believer throughout his life, begged “God” to give peace to Mariko’s soul, therefore suggesting his slow turn towards faith. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Mariko’s death completely changed John Blackthorne, who was now willing to give his own life away for the protection and safety of the villagers of Ajiro. He did feel angry about losing his ship, but he didn’t want Toranaga to punish the villagers for his personal loss. John already had a lot of deaths to his name, and he didn’t want to burden his conscience anymore, which is why he took the entire blame and decided to end his life in front of Toranaga so that he would stop the violence against the villagers.

Through this test, Toranaga wanted to see if John was ready to sacrifice his own life for the greater good of Japan, and in the end, John passed it with flying colors. He had become a loyal samurai in the truest sense, which was why Toranaga not only spared his life but also asked him to rebuild the ship and make a fleet for his army. But if John had failed the test, Toranaga might not have thought twice before taking his life, just like he did with Yabushige. Therefore, in the end, it was either John’s loyalty or his life.

John, on the other hand, believed that Mariko made a deal with the Church, who decided to spare their enemy’s life in return for his ship, which was a threat to their trade routes in Japan. If John had returned to England and informed the Queen about the routes to Japan, it would have jeopardized the Portuguese’s monopoly and hamper their profits. However, in the end, it turned out that it was Toranaga who didn’t want John to return to his country because the Anjin knew too much and his intelligence could have threatened Japan’s security. Furthermore, his presence distracted Toranaga’s enemies, taking their attention away from crucial matters. In James Clavell’s book too, it was Toranaga who destroyed John’s ship, as it threatened Anjin’s life. The Portuguese believed that John would attack them sooner or later, which is why they wanted to kill him in Osaka before Toranaga intervened and took him under his wing. Later, it was Mariko who saved Anjin’s life and made him a better person. But even though John was showered with so much luck and protection, it was his karma to stay in Japan for the rest of his life. In a brief scene in episode 10, he sees himself as an old man in England with his grandkids, but unfortunately, such a dream would never come true. Even his real-life counterpart, William Adams, never left Japan and settled in the country.

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Shikhar Agrawal
Shikhar Agrawal
I am an Onstage Dramatist and a Screenwriter. I have been working in the Indian Film Industry for the past 12 years, writing dialogues for various films and television shows.

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