Relationships In Samurai William Essay

1723 words - 7 pages

In Giles Milton’s novel, Samurai William, the reader is taken to the other side of the globe to experience the history of old world Japan. Though out the book, Milton provides reason for complex historical events and actions, while still communicating the subtleties and mysterious customs of the Japanese. The novel also closely examines the wide range of relationships between different groups of Europeans and Asians, predominantly revolving around the protagonist, William Adams. The book documents the successes and failures that occur between the two civilizations, then links them back to either the positive or negative relationship they have. As the book goes on, the correlation is obvious. ...view middle of the document...

The battling religions came to a head in Japan when the Liefde appeared baring William and other Dutch Protestants. Japan was slowing becoming baptised to Catholicism and the arrival of the ‘heretics’ terrified the Jesuit priests. They lobbied non-stop to the feudal lord to have them executed before they could harm Japan, as they had the rest of the world, they said. The ruler, Lord Terasawa, refused for “he wanted to know more about their voyage and the purpose of their mission”. Had the monks had a positive and influential relationship with Terasawa, he probably would have listened to them, and done as requested.) The book presents such complex Japanese religious traditions as ritual suicide and goes on to say how an individual would commit such an act in great detail. But it also fills in all the blanks with subtleties of the religion and traditions that denied European monks the pork and beef they so longed for. It was the Japanese, however, that realized the power of converting to Christianity. Otomo Yoshishige of Bungo grasped the idea that by converting to Christianity, he would please the Europeans and create more positive relations with them. Becoming parallel with the beliefs of the Jesuits would in turn bring travel and trade to Bungo. When the Europeans landed in Nagasaki, the feudal lord immediately saw the benefits of conversation and “went one step further and declared intention of making his fiefdom a purely Christian one.” Religion and tradition had become more then just beliefs; they were now a way for the civilizations to connect with one another.
The level of etiquette that had been established by the Japanese was perhaps the largest barrier that stood in the way of positive relations with the Europeans. The beginning of the novel explains the Japanese’s first impressions of the newly landed visitors as amazed and repulsed. They were reported as being “well dressed and that they spoke with considerable delicacy”. But it was soon learned that they did not bathe everyday; they ate unfit meats like pork and beef; they did not clean their dishes or kitchens; they did not squat on their heels to sit down with company; and they were brash, easily angered and immoderate. All of these things were found by the Japanese to be incredibly rude and insulting and they took the Europeans for barbarians. On the other hand, it was the Europeans who looked upon the Japanese as backwards in their thinking. There were incredibly complex aspects of the country. Samurais were known to test their swords on criminals by chopping their bodies to bits; casual violence was no need for alarm here. There were subtle things like how they wore long strips of silk draped around their bodies held only in place by a knotted rope; they tweezed the hairs from their faces and wore their hair in oily buns on the tops of their heads. All of these differences could have very well been the negative road block that would have stopped all progress in the relations...

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