Pars Japonica: The First Dutch Expedition to Reach the Shores of Japan . . . Brought by the English Pilot Will Adams, Hero of Shogun

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9781891640230: Pars Japonica: The First Dutch Expedition to Reach the Shores of Japan . . . Brought by the English Pilot Will Adams, Hero of Shogun

This is the harrowing account of arguably the most ill-fated expedition in the long maritime history of the Low Countries. At the end of the 16th century five heavily armed ships sailed from the port of Rotterdam under the command of men who had never set foot on a seagoing ship. Their plan was to sail through the treacherous Strait of Magellan and raid the western coast of Latin America as had the Englishmen Drake and Cavendish. Storms, disease, and general inexperience were to upset those ambitious plans in unexpected ways. 

The terrible hardships suffered in the course of the subsequent two years became an almost biblical trial of the officers and crew--a trial the outcome of which seemed to scorn the ships' talismanic names: Faith, Hope, Love, Fidelity, and The Gospel. Instead, treachery, betrayal, mutiny, and mayhem were the grim rewards of this fateful journey. Out of the five hundred men who sailed, only a hundred survived and only a handful of those were ever to return home.

One ship did pass the test, but not in the way its owners had foreseen. It was through the offices of an English pilot that the ship called Love reached the as yet largely unknown islands of Japan and that the outcome of an otherwise so disastrous expedition was miraculously reversed. The pilot's name was William Adams, the near mythical yet real-life figure who became the hero of James Clavell's best-selling novel Shogun.

William de Lange studied Japanese language and culture at the University of Leiden and at Waseda Univerity in Japan. He is active as a translator and interpreter in a variety of capacities in the Netherlands, Germany, and Japan, and is author of the three-volume history Famous Japanese Swordsmen and The Real Musashi.

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From the Author:

When at the first I took my pen in hand,
Thus for to write, I did not understand
That I at all should make a little book
In such a mode; nay, I had undertook
To make another, which when almost done,
Before I was aware, I this begun.


So wrote John Bunyan toward the middle of the seventeenth century. In more than one way it seems apt to start this book and its chapters with lines from his timeless work, The Pilgrim's Progress.
Life imitates art. And even though this story's protagonists set out on their fateful journey centuries before that phrase was ever coined and decades even before Bunyan was to put pen to paper, yet there is an uncanny similarity between their vicissitudes and those of Bunyan's hero. Like his pilgrim, Christian, the men that populate the following pages leave the comfort of home behind to seek their Celestial City. And though that city was a far cry from that envisaged by Bunyan, it was with the selfsame singular, almost religious devotion that they pursued their worldly goals. Thus the terrible hardships endured amongst the desolate shores and shallows of the Strait of Magellan are grimly in keeping with those that Christian is made to endure in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and the depth of despair as winter descended must have been as acute as the "darkness and horror" that fell on Christian when he feared that he would not "see the land that flows with milk and honey."
The belief that life, however insignificant, is a journey with a divinely ordained purpose--a pilgrimage in search of meaning--not only inspired Bunyan to write his book; it was deeply held by most of his contemporaries. Time and time again it is demonstrated in the words and deeds of the men who shaped this particular episode in Dutch maritime history. Yet it is expressed perhaps most forcefully in the words of this story's hero, the English pilot William Adams, when, after almost twelve years of enforced exile following his arrival in Japan, he has finally found an opportunity to write home to his "unknown friends and countrymen." Though desperate that they should learn about his fate, the long-lost pilot draws undiminished hope from his deep-seated and unshaken conviction "that compassion and mercy is so, that my friends and kindred shall have news, that I do as yet live in this vale of my sorrowful pilgrimage."

About the Author:

William de Lange studied Japanese language and culture at the University of Leiden and at Waseda University in Japan. He is active as a translator and interpreter, and is a practitioner of the Shinkage school of swordsmanship. He is the author of the multi-volume series Famous Samurai, as well as The Real Musashi, the first English translations of the Bushu denraiki and the Bukoden, accepted among Japanese scholars as the oldest and most reliable records of Miyamoto Musashi's life and exploits outside those from the hand of the master swordsman himself.

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