Historical fiction vs Historical Fantasy

Ok I’m reading Shogun. So I managed to the swallow the anarchronisms in the book (Karate and Judo in 1600’s Japan really?)  Then I stumble with the naming of the Japanese characters.  The author made up his names for historical figures. It is rather egregious.  Tokugawa becomes Toranaga.  Fujiwara became  Fujimoto.  It reads like a fiction set during America revolution, where George Washington  becomes Joe Blow, and Benjamin Franklin becomes Professor Humpledink.

If  I was ignorant of Japanese history, it would be no matter.  If I was an uber Japanese history nerd, I would quickly know who is who.  But I’m not, and my knowledge is spotty.  So my mind scatters to the four winds as I find myself calculating who is who. Googling might be a bit more difficult.

Shogun was enormously successfully. I believe 15 million copies were sold.  One of its main appeal was that it’s based on historical events.  Readers were genuinely interested in wanting to learn more about  feudal Japan.  Why obscure when you can enlighten, especially in something so trivial in the naming?  No one is fooled that book isn’t based on history.

I know, I know, I’m being picky. However I do think that if you are going to write about a fairly unknown culture or obscure historical period to an American audience, you shouldn’t obscure the history.  Now readers think Ieyasu Tokugawa, the uber dick who ushered 350 years of peace in Japan is Toranaga.  I find that disconcerting.



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