An epic bilingual stage production based on the life of British navigator William Adams, Anjin: The Shogun and the English Samurai will be showing at the Kanagawa Arts and Aoyama theatres early this December, before moving to the UK in January.

Adams, who later became known as Anjin Miura, is believed to be the first Brit to have reached the shores of Japan, having arrived in 1600. He was initially suspected of piracy but soon won over the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, becoming one of his key advisers as well as the first foreigner to be elevated to the rank of samurai.

He was forbidden from leaving and forced to accept the fact that he would never see his wife and children again, making a new life for himself in what then must have been an entirely exotic land.

His story, one of dedication and sacrifice, was originally staged at the Galaxy Theater in Tokyo in 2009 as part of a large-scale collaboration between Japanese talent agency, HoriPro Inc., and the Royal Shakespeare company.

Following its success, the team have decided to get together again, reviving the play as part of the celebrations to mark 400 years of trade relations between Japan and the UK. An event named UK400 will be held throughout 2013 and this play will form part of that.

Anjin’ will once again be directed by Gregory Doran, the Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, a man described by the the Sunday Times as “one of the great Shakespearians of his generation.”

Yuki Furukawa

Yuki Furukawa hopes to one day emulate Ken Watanabe

Doran will have a star cast to direct, including popular Japanese actor Masachika Ichimura as Tokugawa, Stephen Boxer as Anjin and Yuki Furukawa as a young Jesuit Priest named Domenico. An emerging talent who only began his acting career in August this year, Furukawa is excited about his role.

“It’s a great opportunity,” he tells Weekender. “I watched a DVD of Tatsuya Fujiwara’s performance of Domenico in 2009 and it made me realize that this was someone I really wanted to play. He’s a fascinating, complex character who is torn between the life of a Priest and a samurai. It’s a really good challenge. Also the fact that I can use English for the role is a real bonus for me.”

Only a few months ago the 24-year-old was thinking about doing a master’s degree in engineering, but winning ‘HoriPro’s 50 Year Anniversary Actor Audition’ changed everything and now he is focusing all of his energy on becoming a global star.

“My ultimate goal is to make it in Hollywood,” he says. “I lived in Canada for eight years and then another three in America. While living there I always felt so proud seeing Japanese people like Ken Watanabe doing well. I hope that sometime in the future people can feel the same about me.”

For now, his focus is on Anjin: The Shogun and the English Samurai, where he will be performing in front of both Japanese and British audiences for the first time. It is a demanding role and he admitted that there would be “some nerves before going on stage,” but says that his overriding feeling is one of excitement.

“I am really looking forward to it,” he says. “There aren’t many plays in Japanese and English so there is a uniqueness about it. I really hope everyone enjoys it.”

2009 performance

An image from the 2009 performance

Anjin: The Shogun and the English Samurai plays at the Kanagawa Arts Theater, Yokohama on Dec 1 – 2 (1pm and 6pm on Saturday 1 and 6:30pm on Sunday 2) and at the Aoyama Theatre from Dec 11 – 16 (various times).