British Cultural Exchange in the Tokugawa Period at Shizuoka City Museum of History | VISIT SEPTEMBER 24

Written by BCCJ
August 7, 2023


Written by BCCJ
August 7, 2023

The new Shizuoka City Museum of History prominently features British cultural exchange during the Tokugawa (early Edo) period in a colourful and engaging exhibition. Application to attend visit on Sept 24th (William Adams Birth date) – here:

British Cultural Exchange in the Tokugawa Period at Shizuoka City Museum of History – Google Forms

A “replacement” for the telescope sent by King James 1st to the “Emperor of Japan”, received by Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1613 is the pride of place in the first museum room (see picture)

  • The telescope was the first ever to leave Europe and the first in Japan
  • Astronomy was a key area of interest to Tokugawa and the Japanese. The Portuguese, Britain’s main rivals at the time, had nothing as advanced as the telescope.
  • It later proved the Earth went round the sun which the Portuguese could not admit for religious reasons, thus establishing greater credence for advice from Britain
  • It would likely have been used by Ieyasu Tokugawa to cement his control of Japan and also in navigation where William Adams had already provided invaluable advice and teaching
  • Contributed to the first trade agreement with Japan and the reciprocal gift of the suit of armour is still displayed today in the Tower of London
  • The original telescope has been lost without trace; this is described as a replacement, not a replica as no one knows what the original looked like. It was donated by “Japan400” a group set up in 2013 to coordinate the 400th anniversary events. It was in the British Embassy and toured the country before finding its resting place in Shizuoka.


Visitors are greeted by a life-size hologram of an imaginary portrayal of William Adams who helped John Saris negotiate that first trade agreement

  • 8 of the main characters who helped Ieyasu Tokugawa open trade with the outside world give spoken introductions to their roles (available in English and Japanese)
  • Contemporary characters including William Shakespeare also feature
  • Huge wall murals showing the ships built by William Adams and the Dutch carpenter from the Liefde (the ship Adams arrived in)
  • Historical background to the importance of Ieyasu Tokugawa’s retirement residence (across the road) in Sumpu Castle
  • History of Shizuoka and the Imagawa clan


Highly recommended pre-reading

Access/Arrangements – SEPTEMBER 24

Make your own way to Shizuoka Station (1 hour by Shinkansen). It is recommended to arrive between 1000-1045 to visit Sumpu Castle Park before going to the Museum. Both are located just a 7 minute walk from the Shinkansen station.

The Ieyasu Tokugawa’s castle residence is under excavation in the park, as are 2 other castles on the same site. This was his childhood home as a hostage / captive of the Imagawa clan and later his chosen retirement home.

Alternatively, go directly to the entrance to Shizuoka City Museum of History for 10:50. The first 20 replies to the William Adams Club link below will get free entrance. Guests will be greeted on the ground floor by the director of the museum. There is no guided tour but there are QR Coded explanations in English and Japanese throughout the museum.

12:30 lunch – venue to be agreed depending on final numbers.


Afternoon suggestion – Shizuoka Museum of Art SHIZUOKA CITY MUSEUM of ART (English Page) | 静岡市美術館 (

Shizuoka City Museum of Art, which is located on the third floor of the twenty-five-story Aoi Tower building at the north exit of JR Shizuoka Station, first opened its doors in May 2010. With the guiding principle of “creating and communicating an energetic art and culture of the people and the local region”, the museum holds exhibitions and engages in educational outreach and investigative research activities.