Shogun’s Historical Overlap With This Current HBO Show Makes It The Perfect Japanese Companion Series
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Shogun’s Historical Overlap With This Current HBO Show Makes It The Perfect Japanese Companion Series


  • Shōgun, a historical epic, follows Lord Toranaga’s quest for power in feudal Japan with nods to real Minamoto lineage and the Tokugawa shogunate.
  • Comparisons to Game of Thrones aside, Shōgun focuses on historical drama rooted in real Japanese history, airing exclusively on Hulu and FX.
  • Tokyo Vice, set in modern Japan, complements Shōgun by delving into the yakuza gangs’ power struggles, sharing cultural and historical ties.



The new historical epic series Shōgun is the perfect companion to another celebrated show that similarly takes a deep dive into Japanese culture. Shōgun premiered to rave reviews on February 17, 2024, receiving a nearly perfect 100% Rotten Tomatoes score after its first three episodes. With comparisons already being made to the elite Game of Thrones HBO series, Shōgun is rooted deeply in the historic rise of the Tokugawa shogunate in feudal Japan, rather than in a fantastical world of dragons and White Walkers. New episodes of Shōgun air on Tuesdays exclusively on Hulu and FX.

Shōgun follows Lord Yoshii Toranaga (Hiroyuki Sanada) as he masterfully evades the impending lethal pressures of the Council of Regents, whom he shares the highest feudal power over Japan with at the start of the 17th century. Worried about Toranaga’s ability to establish a new shogunate in his name based on his lineage to the esteemed Minawara clan, based on the noble real-life Minomoto clan, the Regents look to take Toranaga out. With the help of John Blackthorne, who is based on William Adams, the first ever Western samurai, Lord Toranaga devises a plan to defeat the regents and establish a new order in Japan.


Lord Toranaga’s Minowara Ancestry & Tokugawa Shogunate Inspiration Explained

Lord Yoshii Toranaga is based on the real-life shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, who claimed to be a direct descendant of the esteemed Minamoto clan.

Tokyo Vice Chronicles Modern-Day Yakuza Operations & Gang Wars In Tokyo

Interestingly, Tokyo Vice season 2, which was filmed and takes place in Japan, is also currently airing on HBO. Tokyo Vice offers an immersive story that is rich in character and plot development centered around the yakuza gangs of Tokyo. Despite the differences in time period between Tokyo Vice and Shōgun, there are some cultural and historical links that actually make the two series great to watch simultaneously. Most importantly, the city of Tokyo is a major setting in both series. Both shows are centered around formidable clashes of violent clans in Japan in pursuit of complete and absolute power.

In Shōgun, Lord Toranaga sets his sights on Edo, which was the former name of Tokyo before it was changed in 1868 at the start of the Meiji Restoration. Naturally, Tokyo Vice is set in Tokyo, some 400 years after the Tokugawa shogunate helped transform a small fishing village into one of the biggest and most influential cities in the world. The yakuza, or members of the Japanese mafia, originated during the first years of the Tokugawa shogunate in the year 1612, just under a decade after the Edo Period had begun in 1603.


Tokyo Vice Season 2’s Shocking Death Hints 1 Major Character Can’t Be Trusted

The shocking assassination of a major character in Tokyo Vice season 2 has completely changed the landscape of the critically acclaimed HBO series.

The History Of The Yakuza & Edo Period Origin Explained

Ayumi Tanida as Tozawa From Tokyo Vice Season 2 episode 5

The yakuza during the time of Shōgun were seen as either “tekiya”, or those involved in thievery or illegal trade, and “bakuto”, those involved in gambling. Over the course of the Edo Period, yakuza were seen as members of the lowest form of social class and were often spotted for their unusual style of clothing and uncivilized mannerisms. The bakuto may have inspired the yazuka’s signature full-body tattoo aesthetic, according to Culture Trip. “Bakuto were known for their ink since, as the dealers of their games, they were traditionally shirtless to avoid accusations of cheating.” Similar to the shogunate, the yakuza gangs became incredibly hierarchical.

Ironically, the peace that the Tokugawa shogunate was able to establish for over 260 years inadvertently led to the formation of the yakuza gangs. With such a strong sense of stability in Japan during these times, these outsiders were somewhat inevitable to form and gather, resulting in the yakuza gangs such as the fictional Chihara-Kai and Tozawa clans seen in Tokyo Vice. Those familiar with the history of Japan will be able to see how Tokugawa’s shogunate was created in Shōgun as well as witness the modern power of the yakuza gangs in Tokyo Vice.


Shogun’s Edo Explained: Japan Location & Connection To Tokugawa Shogunate

Edo is a crucial area to the Tokugawa shogunate, which played a massive role in its development as one of the biggest cities in the world.

Shogun & Tokyo Vice Are Currently 2 Of The Best Shows On Television

Toranaga holding his sword during a battle in Shogun episode 3

While the two series exist in different narrative universes and air on different platforms, Shōgun and Tokyo Vice are great companion series to watch at the same time. There is a level of appreciation for the magnificence and international impact of Tokyo that is already apparent in Tokyo Vice. This notion is emphasized by the knowledge of how the great city and culture came to be as portrayed in Shōgun. Both series also feature a rich vocabulary of authentic Japanese terminology and customs that are used throughout. With Rotten Tomatoes scores of 99% and 92% respectively, Shōgun and Tokyo Vice are two 2024 series that can’t be missed.

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: Culture Trip

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