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Mariko won the heart of not only John Blackthorne.  Her story is true.  Partially

Mariko won the heart of not only John Blackthorne. Her story is true. Partially

On Tuesday, Disney Plus viewers will watch the long-awaited finale of the excellent series “Shogun”. However, James Clavell’s film adaptation is not only fiction. Although the names and some details do not match, everything that could be seen on the small screen really happened.

The story of Toranaga, John Blacktorne, Lady Mariko and Yabushige comes to an end. On Tuesday, the last episode of the excellent series “Shogun” – another adaptation of James Clavell’s novel of the same title – appeared on Disney Plus. The book by a Briton born in Australia, although not without errors and inaccuracies, as well as numerous simplifications, is generally considered to be a quite reliable source of information about Japan.

Clavell in “Shogun” made extensive use of his knowledge of the country’s history. He prepared for three years to write the book, studying available legends about a Briton who came to Japan in the 17th century. William Adams, as this was his real name, actually became an advisor to the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. And although Clavell did some thinking and, for various reasons known only to himself, decided that Adams’s story was less interesting than the one he invented for John Blackthorne, he drew a lot from real life stories of various people. And he messed up a lot – especially in creating Mariko’s story.

“Shogun”. The true story of Toda Mariko

Toda Mariko, John Blackthorne, and Yoshi Toranaga were invented for Clavell’s book. In reality, however, they are strongly rooted in real people who influenced the fate of feudal Japan. Mariko’s fate parallels that of Akechi Tama, the pious daughter of General Akechi Mitsuhide. Like Mariko’s father, Akechi Tama’s father betrayed his feudal lord, Oda Nobunaga, and caused his death in 1582.

Tama was only 19 years old at the time and, like Mariko, was already married. She had at least two children with Hosokawa Tadaoki. It is not known whether she sought death because of her father’s betrayal, but it is known that her husband sent her to Midono, where she spent two years under guard. The creator of the podcast “”, specializing in Japanese history, claims that Japanese sources indicate Tadaoki’s particular vehemence and jealousy towards his wife. The series’ Buntaro has a lot in common with him – including his love for the tea ceremony, which was shown in one of the episodes of “Shogun”. After her father’s rebellion, Tama certainly went to Midono, but various sources are not sure whether she was there because her husband wanted to protect her after all, or whether she had already divorced Tadaoki, whose family sided with the defeated Nobunaga. Tama certainly lost her mother and brother as a result of her father’s betrayal – they were killed as a punishment for the entire family. General Akechi Mitsuhide enjoyed life for only two weeks after his rebellion. The dam survived, but it was not free.

Years in captivity

Not only could she not leave Midono. Every day she could be ordered by Tadaoki to commit jigai. Suicide without her husband’s permission was out of the question at that time. After two years, Tadaoki finally spoke. He ordered his wife to come to Osaka, where she was reunited with her children, but she continued to live in confinement. She could not leave her husband’s estate and obeyed his decision. However, she heard about a new religion spreading in Japan, Christianity, which gave her hope for a better tomorrow. A believer would consider her today’s imprisonment as a sign from God and a chance for redemption after death. Under disguise, Tama slipped away from home to a church in Osaka, where she not only entered into a discussion with the priest, but also discovered a new faith with genuine fascination. This became her window to the world.

She still did not leave her husband’s estate. However, she sent her ladies to church every Sunday to report on her mass. Her indirect actions led to the adoption of Christianity by a significant number of servants. The Jesuits noticed that they had a very useful ally in Tama, who converted better than any European. Tama received books as gifts from them, learned Portuguese and Latin, corresponded with the church superior in Osaka – she was very well educated in matters of Zen Buddhism and asked about the details of Christianity with rare inquisitiveness.

Anna Sawai as Toda Mariko, ‘Shogun’ Photo Disney

When the then leader of Japan, Hideyoshi Toyotomi, banned the spread of Christianity, she decided to get baptized as soon as possible. The Jesuits advised her against it, claiming that performing the sacrament could result in additional repression. Tama therefore ordered one of the previously baptized servants to perform the ritual. She adopted the Portuguese name Gracia and probably hoped that the persecution would lead to her martyrdom.

The persecution had meanwhile ceased, but tensions between the Japanese overlords, the Jesuits and the approaching Spaniards only increased. Tama gave birth to more children, her husband entered into new political alliances. A significant part of them was shown in “Shogun”, because Ieyasu Tokugawa, who was immortalized in the book and in the series under the name Toranagi, and his main political rival – Mitsunari Ishida (Ishido Kazunari, holding Osaka hostage in his fist) had already entered the scene. Tama became his victim when he tried to capture her. As a samurai’s wife, slavery was out of the question – she had to commit suicide, which in turn was forbidden by her new faith. Tama was to be killed by one of the defenders of the estate where she was staying, appointed by her husband – the woman submitted to the will of custom without any resistance. The man also later committed seppuku himself.

Hosokawa Gracia's (Akechi Tama) grave in KyotoHosokawa Gracia’s (Akechi Tama) grave in Kyoto Photo public domain / wikimedia commons

It is not known whether she wrote beautiful poems. However, she certainly never met William Adams (the book’s John Blackthorn) or Ieyasu Tokugawa (Toranaga), because she remained under house arrest until her death. She was only 37 years old and her death had minimal impact on the fate of Japan, although it did make Mitsunari Ishida lose his composure and the bargaining chip in the form of hostages for a moment. She was said to be of extraordinary beauty and had a mind that the Jesuits called “terrifying” – this word was supposed to correspond to extraordinary intelligence and logic, which until then had been seen mainly as a male attribute.

The role of Mariko-sama, based on the character of Akechi Tama, was played by Anna Sawai.

Source: Gazeta

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