James Cavell’s Shōgun (1980)

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After a recent rewatch, I felt compelled to write a little something about this. I discovered a little something about myself along the way.

I didn’t watch the huge mini-series event that was Shōgun on its first run, but I caught the encore. I heard so much about it from my classmates at the time that my interest was piqued. For a ten-year-old, it was a bit over my head, yet I was entranced. Thus began my interest in Japanese culture, shinobi, and feudal Japan. I had already enjoyed imported shows such as Ultraman, Speed Racer, and Battle of the Planets, along with movies like Godzilla and the like. None of those things ever really gave me any notion that I was watching something that was not of my culture. Nor should that have. They were all dubbed and filtered through a western portal. It wasn’t until Shōgun, where I felt like this was a different way of existing and thinking. I had grown up with many cultures around me, but I never drew any distinction between how they lived and how I did. My eyes were opened, and I never turned back. My world had expanded and soon I developed a love for learning about cultures and histories from all over the world.

Shōgun is a 1980 American historical drama television miniseries based on James Clavell’s 1975 novel of the same name. The series was produced by Paramount Television and first broadcast in the United States on NBC over five nights between September 15 and September 19, 1980. It was written by Eric Bercovici and directed by Jerry London, and stars Richard Chamberlain, Toshiro Mifune, and Yoko Shimada, with a large supporting cast. Clavell served as executive producer. To date, it is the only American television production to be filmed on-location entirely in Japan, with additional soundstage filming also taking place in Japan at the Toho studio.

The miniseries is loosely based on the adventures of English navigator William Adams, who journeyed to Japan in 1600 and rose to high rank in the service of the Shōgun. It follows fictional Englishman John Blackthorne’s (Chamberlain) transforming experiences and political intrigues in feudal Japan in the early 17th century.


17 May 1953 – 25 July 2022 🙁

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