Today in the Middle Ages: May 16, 1620

William Adams, the first Englishman to reach Japan, died on May 16, 1620.

Adams was a navigator and shipbuilder who piloted a Dutch ship to the islands, arriving in April, 1600. He adapted to Japanese culture, learned the language, and was awarded the rank and swords of a samurai. He was known in Japan as "Anjin-sama," Lord Pilot.

James Clavell's absorbing novel Shogun centers on a fictionalized account of Adams's years in Japan.