Were They A Real Society?
6 mins read

Were They A Real Society?

WARNING: SPOILERS ahead for Shōgun episode 3.




  • The Amida Assassins are a dangerous society in Shogun trying to kill protagonist John Blackthorne.
  • The show portrays the society as religious extremists linked to a sect of Japanese Buddhism.
  • The Amida Tong in Shogun are not based on real historical assassins but were created for the story.

The Amida Assassins in Shōgun play a major role in episode 3 titled “Tomorrow is Tomorrow.” With just 3 out of Shōgun’s 10 total episodes released, the critically acclaimed Hulu/FX series is one of the most exciting new shows of 2024. Shōgun episode 3 picks up exactly where episode 2 titled “Servants of Two Masters” left off in the aftermath of an attack on John Blackthorne’s life. Blackthorne, a charismatic English sailor who accidentally navigates to the shores of Japan during a nasty storm at sea, plays an integral role in Lord Yoshii Toranaga’s plan in Shōgun.

Lord Toranaga is faced with the unfolding plot of the Council of Regents, who plan to kill Toranaga so that he cannot claim himself as the new shōgun due to his birthright as a descendant of the Minawara clan. Blackthorne becomes Toranaga’s unlikely ally and secret weapon over the course of Shōgun, being promoted to the distinguished title of Hatamoto, or a high-ranking samurai, in episode 3. It is revealed early on in the episode that the attack on Blackthorne was executed by the society of Amida. In response, Toranaga looks for answers from his subordinate and daimyo Kashigi Yabushige.

Amida Assassins Tried To Kill John Blackthorne In Shogun

Toranaga discovers that the society of Amida was behind the assassination attack on John Blackthorne at the Osaka castle. When asking Yabushige about the Amida people, the daimyo claims that he only knows what is commonly said about them, confirming that they are a group of assassins sworn by the sacred oaths of Buddha Amida. Toranaga questions Yabushige’s loyalty to him, especially since it is no secret that he has been working behind the scenes with Toranaga’s rival, Ishido Kazunari. Yabushige may know more about the Amida attack than he is letting on, but he swears his allegiance to Toranaga.

Later in the episode, Toda Mariko sits with John Blackthorne as his wounds are mended by a doctor after the attack on his life. Mariko explains more about the dangerous sect of assassins, claiming that some of them spend their entire lives preparing for just one kill. This seems to be the case in the hit on Blackthorne, as the assassin was revealed to be one of Toranaga’s trusted palace maids. Knowing this, it’s remarkable that whoever ordered the attack on Blackthorne saw him as a big enough threat to expire an Amida assassin with such access to Toranaga. It’s curious why the attack wasn’t instead targeted at Toranaga.


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.

A closeup of Lord Toranaga in armor in Shogun

The society of Amida is directly related to a particular sect of Japanese Buddhism and their lifelong devotion to the Amida Buddha. According to Tricycle, the Amida Buddha is “the Buddha of “immeasurable light,” whose light shines everywhere regardless of conditions, is the guiding focus for Pure Land Buddhists.” The Pure Land is defined as “the spiritual dimension, or “field,” known as Sukhavati is the best possible place to be reborn; a realm where the path to liberation is unobstructed.” The Japanese monk Honen became the founder of the first Pure Land School in Japan in 1175.

The society of Amida is essentially a group of religious extremists in Shōgun who presumably justify the use of strategic violence as a means to protect their beliefs. Ironically, the foundational values of Pure Land Buddhism don’t seem to align with assassinations or anything of that sort, hinting that the society of Amdia is likely not based on any real group of religious killers. Ninjas or shinobi were more plausibly hired to carry out such covert operations in real life. It’s unclear after three episodes of Shōgun whether the society of Amida ordered the hit on John Blackthorne or a third party hired them to carry it out.


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.

Was the Amida Society Based On Real Assassins?

Anna Sawai gazing forward without expression in a scene from Shogun.

As intriguing as the society of Amida sounds in Shōgun, it appears that it was created by James Clavell in his novel Shōgun, which inspired the miniseries of the same name. According to Clavell’s book, the Amida Tong were the most deadly assassins in all of Japan during the era in which the story takes place. As hired hands, they were likely paid handsomely to try and kill Blackthorne, especially through one of their designated palace maids that had likely been planted at Toganada’s castle many years ago. The society of Amida plays a critical role in Shōgun episodes 2 & 3, but unlike so much of the series, is not based on a real group or people.

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: Tricycle

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