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Vasco Rodrigues

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Vasco Rodrigues was a minor antagonist from the Shōgun novel and miniseries.

In the early 1600s Rodrigues was the pilot of the Portuguese treasure vessel commonly known as the Black Ship. As pilot he was responsible for handling the navigation of the ship. Rodrigues was second in command of the ship behind Captain Ferriera. Rodrigues spent a great deal of time in Japan, gaining some knowledge of the language and local customs.

When John Blackthrone arrived in Japan Rodrigues was hired to take him aboard the Japanese galley owned by Toranaga and take him to meet the daimyo. He was given a sealed package by Father Sebastio and told to deliver it to Father Carlo Dell’Aqua.

Due to their national and religious differences there was a bit of emenity between Rodrigues and Blackthorne. However their shared occupations gave Rodrigues respect for the man he called Ingles. The two men went aboard Blackthorne's ship Erasmus. Blackthorne found that the ship had been stripped clean of material, including his maps and charts that would enable him to get home.

Leaving for Osaka when a storm blew Rodrigues overboard it was Blackthorne who saved his life, opening the way to a wary friendship between the two men. Upon arrival Rodrigues hand delivered the maps and charts stolen from the Erasmus to Father Dell’Aqua.

Later when Toranaga was moving to leave Osaka his galley and the Black Ship crossed paths. In order to gain 20 muskets to clear the harbor of enemy forces blocking their exit Toranaga went aboard the Black Ship. At the insistence of Captan Ferriera Blackthorne came along and Rodrigues treated him to a good European meal. At the meeting with Toranaga Ferriera named his price for the 20 muskets - keeping John Blackthorne in order to burn him at the nearest stake. Unknown to Ferriera Rodrigues was spying on the meeting. Rodrigues was able to save Blackthorne's life by throwing him overboard after Toranaga left the Black Ship. Ferriera was quiet upset by this, but Rodrigues claimed that he had no idea Ferriera wanted to keep him.

At a meal with Father Martin Alvito Rodrigues explained that he did not think that the English pilot was necessarily a bad person due to his national and religious heritage. Alvito cautioned him about becoming too much of a friend to Blackthorne, that the man would probably put his religious and civic loyalties ahead of their friendship.

When Ferriera later pressed the issue of killing John Blackthorne, not even threats of excommunication from Father Dell'Aqua for not only the good Captain but his entire crew dissuaded Ferriera. Rodrigues attempted to also talk his Captain out of murdering Blackthorne and to go aboard the Black Ship as Dell'Aqua ordered. Ferriera was past the point of caring and raised his weapon. About five seconds later Dell'Aqua's guards put several arrows into Ferriera's chest, killing the hotheaded and arrogant Ferriera.

Dell'Aqua then named Rodrigues as the next Captain of the Black Ship. Rodrigues readied the ship to leave for Europe, but not before informing Blackthorne that Erasmus had been burned to cinders. An angry Blackthorne shouted at Rodrigues his hope that the winds would carry him to hell. Rodrigues replied that they may well do that, but that his friend Blackthorne was now trapped in Japan forever.


The character of Vasco Rodrigues was not based on any one person, and was an invention of James Clavell. In the mini-series he was portrayed by Welsh actor John Rhys-Davies.

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