13th Pass Monument

Monument on the 13th Pass

By Jeff Ogrisseg


Aknowledgements to Mr. Tadashi Makino, author of “The Footprints of Miura Anjin” and “The Blue-Eyed Samurai,” who published his first book about William Adams two years before Clavell’s “Shogun,” and who has dedicated half his life honoring the memory of the Anjin in his capacity at the Ito City Tourist Association.


What became of William Adams?

Recorded history following the death of William Adams on May 16, 1620 is to this day somewhat sketchy. This is mainly attributable to poor or nonexistent record-keeping at Adams’ trading post in Hirado, north of Nagasaki, between Jan.15, 1619 and Dec. 5, 1920, and was further compounded by the expulsion of foreigners from Japan that began in 1633. The British trading post had already closed in 1623, and the remaining Dutch traders were secluded to Dejima Island in Nagasaki in 1641 under the Acts of Seclusion, leaving none of Adams’ European countrymen to tend the foreigner’s cemetery in Hirado.

Scattered diary records researched by Mr. Makino reveal that Adams was laid to rest in one corner of the foreigner’s cemetery near the trading post. After the Shimabara revolt in 1637 (brought on the government’s repression of Christianity), the state took a severe stance against foreigners and had their cemetery dug up and the remains of those buried there cast into the sea. However, some of the local people secretly recovered what they could and reburied their departed friends at different locations.

In the confusion and course of time, it is thus impossible to know exactly where famed pilot now rests. But on a hillside to the right of Hirado Port, there is a tombstone erected in the memory of William Adams.

The Anjin zuka at Tsukayama Koen

tomb 3Paths rising from the Jodoji Temple in Hemi, and from Anjinzuka Station lead to a mountain park that is famed for its cherry trees, which bloom in a small valley there each spring.

Tsukayama Koen (SKY’ yama KOH’ en) means “tomb hill park” and is named so because of a pair of obelisks erected for William Adams (Miura Anjin) and his wife Oyuki.

The origins of this monument, when it was erected and by whom, are not entirely clear. There are, however, references in letters and diaries to the 13th Pass in Hemi, Adams’ former fief, that the pilot had wanted to be buried near his home, with a view toward Edo (Tokyo). It is assumed that his wife and the townspeople of Hemi erected it. There are also references to the site in other historical texts that describe annual memorial services taking place more than 200 years after Adams’ death.

Despite folklore of Anjin’s faithful running quietly by night with the old pilot’s bones from Hirado to Hemi, several other factors of the time rule against Adams being buried at or near this monument (the time lapse following his “described” burial at Hirado, the unlikelihood of the British traders allowing Adams to be cremated, the fact that the British were without a sailing license on Adams’ death).

tomb 2But, perhaps the best proof would be the 1905 excavation of the monument by the Kanagawa Prefectural Government, with several dignitaries in attendance, to determine whether the site was really a grave. No remains were found there.

Regardless, since the “rediscovery” of the obelisks in 1872 by James Walters, a trader in Yokohama, much effort has gone into honoring the memory of the departed pilot. The mound has been refurbished over several different phases. In 1874, Zenroku Anzai, a local resident of Hemi, spent his own money to build a stone plinth around the obelisks. In 1888, the area around the monument and steps up the mound were paved with stone, stone lanterns and iron railings were added. Another renovation took place in 1965.

Annual ceremonies are held each April with local civilian and Japanese and U.S. military officials, and Dutch and British ambassadors in attendance. With exception of one 13-year span (spring 1935 until spring 1948), ceremonies have been held each year in Hemi.

A local citizens’ group from Hemi maintains the site and additional commemorative stones have been placed nearby. If nothing else, the memory of William Adams’ fair treatment of the people of his fief lives on.