John Blackthorne’s New Name Changes Everything In Shogun
6 mins read

John Blackthorne’s New Name Changes Everything In Shogun

WARNING: SPOILERS ahead for Shōgun episode 3.




  • John Blackthorne’s promotion to Hatamoto by Lord Toranaga in Shōgun signifies his importance in the impending feudal wars.
  • Shōgun, based on real-life figures, provides a dramatized portrayal of Tokugawa Iyeasu rising to power in feudal Japan.
  • The role of Hatamoto in Japanese history was essential for warlords, with members holding a special rank under the shogun.

The unlikely promotion received by John Blackthorne in Shōgun marks an esteemed honor from Lord Yoshii Toranaga. Throughout the first three episodes of the acclaimed new historical epic series, Blackthorne (Cosmo Jarvis) has come up with clever ways to survive in a divided feudal Japan where an all-out battle for the highest military rank, known as the shogun, is about to begin. Initially seen as a threat, Blackthorne wins over the tricky and targeted Lord Toranaga (Hiroyuki Sanada), who begins to find ways to make the English sailor useful in his fight against Ishido and the Council of Regents.

Jarvis and Sanada lead an impressive cast in Shōgun that is based on real-life figures from the start of the Edo Period (1603 – 1868) in Japan. Shōgun offers a dramatized portrayal of how feudal lord Tokugawa Iyeasu rose to power against the impending threat of the Council of Five Elders following the death of the Taiko Toyotomi Hideyoshi. While Shōgun certainly deviates from the true story of Tukugawa’s rise to power and John Blackthorne’s real-life inspiration William Adams’ involvement in the feudal wars, the series is an undeniable critical success. As of the time of writing, Shōgun has an impeccable 99% on Rotten Tomatoes.


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.

What Hatamoto Translates To

A closeup of John Blackthorne in Shogun episode 3

At the end of Shōgun episode 3, Lord Toranaga names John Blackthorne his new Hatamoto, which is considered a great honor. Similar to a daimyo, a hatamoto is a vassal of the shogun or regent. Hatamoto literally translates to “origin of the flag” with an understanding in feudal Japanese culture of being similar to a bannerman on the battlefield. Based on John Blackthrones sharp thinking that covered for Lord Toranaga and later got him of out a pickle with the Portuguese, it’s evident that Toranaga sees a courageous spirit within Blakthrone that he hopes will be instilled within his own ranks of daimyo and samurai.

As Hatamoto to Lord Toranaga, John Blackthorne is an emblem of guardianship or protection of his flag and cause. In this case, the flag is representative of Toranaga’s future shogunate dynasty. Before Blackthorne’s arrival, Toranaga’s fate seemed murky and dire but the Englishman was able to support the feudal lord’s preservation against the circling Council of Regents. Toranaga also appoints Blackthorne to teach his son and Kashigi Yabushigee (Tadanobu Asano) what he refers to as “foreign tactics” to prepare for impending warfare against the Council of Regents and their supporters.


Shogun’s 5 Regent Lords Explained: Were They Real?

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

The Hatamoto Role In Japanese History Explained

Anna Sawai as Lady Mariko in Shogun

According to Osprey Publishing, “Each great samurai warlord, or daimyo, had a division of troops known as the Hatamoto, ‘those who stand under the flag’. The Hatamoto included the personal bodyguards, the senior generals, the standard bearers and colour-guard, the couriers, and the other samurai under the warlord’s personal command.” In this light, the Hatamoto seems to be in a similar classification as the karo, or samurai leaders, such as Hiromatsu. They are distinguished above samurai as hold special rank as vassals to the shogun similar to the daimyo and the karo, but are under regents, warlords, and kampaku.

During the Edo period under the rein of the Tokugawa shogunate, William Adams was the shogun’s first Haramoto and one of the few Westerners who had ever been given that distinguished honor. During periods of war, the Hatamoto were essentially the same as an officer who operated under a general. More traditional members of the Hatamoto were determined by their income and were landowners under the shogun, which certainly wasn’t the case for John Blackthorne at this time. Throughout Japan’s feudal history during the Edo period, Hatamoto became a class of upper-class daimyos with an income that placed them in a specialized bracket.

Famous Hatamoto



William Adams



Jidayu Koizumi



Ōoka Tadasuke



Tōyama Kagemoto



Katsu Kaishū



Enomoto Takeaki



Hijikata Toshizō




Shogun’s Ranks & Ruling Order Explained

Shōgun features a strict and intentional hierarchical system that is accurate to that of feudal Japan, consisting of regents, daimyos, and samurai.

What John Blackthorne’s Hatomoto Name Means For His Future In Shogun

Lord Toranaga’s promotion of John Blackthorne to Hatamoto so quickly shows the desperate circumstances that the leader faces in Shōgun. It also demonstrates that he finds Blackthorne to be his greatest advantage in the feudal wars to come, putting aside the allegations of him being a pirate to ready his army with Blackthorne’s Western knowledge. Toranaga believes that Blackthorne’s foreign war tactics will give him an edge and take his enemies by surprise on the battlefield, which is why he gives the Englishman such a distinguished rank off the bat. With Blackthorne’s help, Toranaga’s path of survival in Shōgun becomes much clearer.

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

Source: Osprey Publishing

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