John Blackthorne’s Fear Of The Flux In Shogun Explains Why He Won’t Bathe
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John Blackthorne’s Fear Of The Flux In Shogun Explains Why He Won’t Bathe


  • John Blackthorne’s concern of “the flux” drives his refusal to bathe frequently, showing cultural differences in Shōgun.
  • Toranaga sees Blackthorne’s intelligence and resourcefulness, using him as an aide amidst power struggles.
  • Blackthorne’s dysentery fears reveal the deadly nature of the disease in 17th century Japan, highlighting cultural disconnects.



John Blackthorne, one of the key main characters in Shōgun, refuses to bathe frequently because of his fear of “the flux”. As portrayed in the first two episodes of Shōgun, the new FX historical epic series streaming on Hulu, Blackthorne is an English ship captain who accidentally washes up on the shores of southern Japan after a terrible storm sends him and his crew astray. The crew are mostly sick and starving when they are found and taken to Osaka, the most important city in feudal Japan during the start of the 17th century when the show takes place.

Blackthorne (Cosmo Jarvis) is taken from his crew and is brought before Lord Yoshii Toranaga (Hiroyuki Sanada), who soon discovers that he is an incredibly intelligent and resourceful person who is better as an aide than as a prisoner. Toranaga faces the impending collective threat of the other four members of the Council of Regents, who all equally share feudal control and power over Japan. The Council of Regents fears that Toranaga will use his Minowara ancestry to claim himself the rightful heir as ruler of Japan.


William Adams Explained: The Real Life Version Of Shogun’s John Blackthorne

Shōgun’s John Blackthorne is inspired by the real-life English shipbuilder and navigator William Adams, who became the first-ever Western samurai.

John Blackthorne’s Dysentery Concerns Explain Why He Won’t Bathe In Shogun

John Blackthorne standing in front of Lord Toranaga in Shogun episode 2

After Blackthorne is invited to stay at Yoshii Toranaga’s home as an esteemed guest in Shōgun episode 2, he is offered a bath, which he immediately refuses. Blackthorne is confused that the offer was made to bathe more than twice a week since he had already bathed the day prior, and it appears that he did not regularly bathe on a daily basis. Blackthorne was concerned that he would get “the flux”, which is an outdated term for dysentery, because it seems that he was used to bathing in potentially hazardous water.

It didn’t occur to Blackthorne that the water he was offered to bathe in was obviously cleaner than what he was used to, but it proves an important cultural difference that helped drive the point home of how out-of-place he was in Japan. Blackthorne had likely lost people that he knew from the flux, which comes from a parasite called Entamoeba histolytica. For many people during the year 1600, getting the flux was considered a death sentence due to the lack of advancement in medical treatment.


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The historical epic series Shōgun features five fictionalized Japanese lords known as regents who were inspired by a real-life feudal council.

Dysentery Was A Major Concern By Shogun’s Timeline

Having been from England, the flux or dysentery was one of the gravest concerns of the English people since it had King John several centuries prior. It was also an incredibly common and lethal disease that would be as simple as taking too many baths to catch. The water that Blackthorne was offered at Yoshii Toranaga’s was clearly the purest in all of Japan. Considering how little Blackthorne knew about Japanese culture or what exactly was happening to him at that point in Shōgun, it makes perfect sense why he would be concerned.

Shogun 2024 Poster


Shogun is an FX original mini-series set in 17th Century Japan. Shogun follows John Blackthorne, who becomes a samurai warrior but is unknowingly a pawn in Yoshii Toranaga’s plan to become Shogun. The series stars Cosmo Jarvis as John Blackthorne and Hiroyuki Sanada as Yoshii Toranaga, along with Anna Sawai, Tadanobu Asano, and Yûki Kedôin.

Cosmo Jarvis , Hiroyuki Sanada , Anna Sawai , Tadanobu Asano , Yûki Kedôin


Streaming Service(s)

Maegan Houang , Rachel Kondo , Justin Marks , Emily Yoshida

Frederick E.O. Toye , Jonathan van Tulleken

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