Shogun’s Earthquake References A Big Toranaga Change From The Book (& Foreshadows Shogunate History)
4 mins read

Shogun’s Earthquake References A Big Toranaga Change From The Book (& Foreshadows Shogunate History)

WARNING: SPOILERS ahead for Shōgun episode 4.




  • Episode 4 of Shōgun features a slight earthquake, offering insight into the natural history of Japan and its people’s fears.
  • The earthquake differs from the novel but serves as a way for Blackthorne to earn Mariko’s trust, deepening their connection.
  • Shōgun’s portrayal of earthquakes mirrors Japan’s historical earthquakes, showcasing the country’s vulnerability to natural disasters.

The brief earthquake in Shōgun episode 4 “The Eightfold Fence” is an altered reference to the original novel. The acclaimed FX/Hulu series Shōgun is essentially an adaptation of the 1975 historical novel of the same name by James Clavell as well as a remake of the 1980 miniseries starring Richard Chamberlain and Toshirô Mifune. The new series has received rave reviews and has been hailed as one of the first must-watch television shows of 2024.

Shōgun episode 4 sees the continued assimilation of the newly appointed Hatamoto John Blackthorne into Lord Torinaga’s ranks. Blackthorne is instructed by Toranaga to train Yabushige’s army with “Western battle tactics”, which are mostly limited to his education of historical battles and the use of his highly accurate naval cannons. Blackthorne also starts to develop a deeper understanding of Lady Mariko through glimpses of her backstory that reveal parts of her family’s tragic legend and her obligation to Lord Toranaga.


Shogun’s Natto Explained: What John Blackthorne Eats & Why Mariko Warned Him

John Blackthorne tries a celebrated Japanese dish called natto in Shōgun episode 4, one of the many examples of his continued assimilation in Japan.

Shogun’s Earthquake Connects To A Book Change Involving Toranaga & Blackthorne

In Shōgun episode 4, a mild earthquake occurs which stuns Blackthorne, who has never experienced one before. This in turn causes Mariko to give John insight into how earthquakes have affected the lives of Japanese people for centuries. Mariko tells Blackthorne that there is death in the air, land, and sea of Japan, explaining that they must also be wary of tsunamis and fires that often wreak havoc on villages and cities alike.

While the earthquake is used as a minor plot device for Blackthorne to learn more about Japan’s natural history, the earthquake has a much greater meaning in the novel by James Clavell. In the book, John saved Toranaga’s life during an earthquake and was named Hatamoto in response to his heroism. The change in 2024’s Shōgun seems more plausible albeit anticlimactic, although Blackthorne did essentially save Toranaga’s life by getting him safely out of Osaka as Ishida’s men closed in on him in Shōgun episode 3.


John Blackthorne’s Role As Hatomoto & His Consort In Shogun Explained

John Blackthorne is honored by Lord Toranaga who gives him the title of Hatamoto in Shōgun, but there could be hidden implications behind the move.

Shogunate History Involves A Devastating Earthquake

Cosmo Jarvis as John Blackthorne and Anna Sawai as Mariko in Shōgun

Earthquakes have been prevalent across Japan’s history, but there was also a major one during the Edo period (1603 – 1868), only a few years before the events of Shōgun. One of the most notable earthquakes in Japan’s history was the 1855 Edo earthquake, which had a massively devastating effect on Edo, now modern-day Tokyo, and left as many as 10,000 casualties. The 1605 Keichō Nankaidō earthquake is one of the closest notable earthquakes in Japanese history to the time period of Shōgun, but the one depicted in the series was relatively mild by comparison.

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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