Gai-Jin (novel)
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Gai-Jin Novel
JamesClavell Gai-Jin.jpg
First edition cover
Author James Clavell
Country United Kingdom, United States
Language English
Series Asian Saga
Genre Historical fiction, Novel
Publisher Delacorte Press
Publication date
June 1993
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
ISBN 0-385-31016-1 (first edition, hardback)
OCLC 27143901
813/.54 20
LC Class PS3553.L365 G34 1993
Preceded by Tai-Pan
(in chronology of Asian Saga)
Followed by King Rat

Gai-Jin (Japanese for "foreigner") is a 1993 novel by James Clavell, chronologically the third book in his Asian Saga, although it was the last to be published. Taking place about 20 years after the events of Tai-Pan, it chronicles the adventures of Malcolm Struan, the son of Culum and Tess Struan, in Japan. The story delves deeply into the political situation in Japan and the hostility Westerners faced there, and is loosely based on the Namamugi Incident and the subsequent Anglo-Satsuma War.

Plot summary

The story opens with a fictional rendition of the Namamugi Incident. On September 14, 1862, Phillip Tyrer, John Canterbury, Angelique Richaud, and Malcolm Struan are riding on the T?kaid?, when they are attacked by Shorin Anato and Ori Ryoma, both Satsuma samurai and r?nin shishi in the sonn? j?i movement, cells of revolutionary xenophobic idealists. Canterbury is killed, Malcolm seriously wounded, and Tyrer receives a minor arm injury; only Angelique escapes unharmed to get help back to Yokohama. Tyrer and Malcolm make their way to Kanagawa (Kanagawa-ku) later that day, where Dr. Babcott operates on Malcolm. Meanwhile, at a village inn in Hodogaya the daimyo Sanjiro of Satsuma, meets with Katsumata, one of his advisors, and receives Ori and Shorin, with whom he plots an overthrow of the current Shogunate. Two days later Malcolm is moved to the merchant' settlement in Yokohama. He is not expected to last long and while he is in bed sick, he shows his emotions for Angelique, a voluptuous but penniless French girl.

The novel spins two story lines which intertwine with ever increasing complexity: one follows the "gaijin" (foreign) community in Yokohama, the other, the Japanese, both the government (Bakufu) run by a Council of Elders who advise the young Shogun, and the anti-government, xenophobic, pro-Emperor forces, focusing on the "shishi". The Japanese distrust the foreigners only slightly more than they distrust each other. The various nationalities that make up the foreign community likewise plot against and socialise with each other warily. Both Japanese and foreigners are convinced of their own superiority.

While Malcolm slowly recovers from his wounds and falls in love with Angelique, she is raped by one of the Japanese samurai assassins, Ori Ryoma, as she lies sedated to treat her shock. Horrified, she keeps this a secret but later discovers she is pregnant. Desperate, she obtains Chinese medicine that precipitates an abortion, with the help of a French spy who later blackmails her with this knowledge. At the same time, she learns her father is a degenerate gambler in jail for debt, and her uncle loses her capital in a failed investment. Marriage to the infatuated Malcolm seems increasingly attractive but she must keep her rape an absolute secret. Obsessed with her, Ori rapes her again. This time, Angelique is not drugged, but she yields and tricks Ori into leaving afterwards instead of killing her, as she knew he intended. He is shot outside her window but no-one suspects he was leaving; it is rumored that he was trying to break in.

Yoshi Toranaga, a descendant of Lord Toranaga in Shogun and one of the Council of Elders, narrowly escapes various assassination attempts while he tries to out manoeuvre his fellow councilors, all of whom mistrust each other, as well as hunt down the rogue shishi. He hates the foreigners as passionately as the shishi do, but recognizes that their superior military technology makes sonn? j?i impossible for the present. This position puts him at odds with almost everyone around him. A meeting is arranged between the Council and the representatives of the foreign community to deal with their demands for reparations and justice for the murderous attack, only one of several such incidents. Despite much Japanese prevarication, and the three-way interpreting necessary (English-Dutch-Japanese), a deal is struck.

Malcolm Struan is heir to the Noble House of Struan's, but he is not yet of age and therefore technically not yet "taipan". Meanwhile, his mother, Tess Struan, runs the business and urges him to return to Hong Kong and give up his infatuation with this unsuitable penniless French "gold-digger". Her imperious attitude angers him and he resists, determined to marry Angelique and be taipan.

The brothels of Yokohama are where Japanese and foreigners meet. The French spy is besotted with a Japanese prostitute, whose Madame is associated with the "shishi" and who exchanges favours for information. The French spy introduces Tyrer to the delights and protocols of Japanese brothels. Later, Tyrer befriends a young Japanese and they begin to teach each other, although, unbeknownst to Tyrer, the Japanese is a fanatical "shishi". He gradually adopts the same position as Lord Yoshi, his implacable enemy: the only way to purge Japan of these revolting barbarians is to learn their military and technological secrets.

Malcolm marries Angelique irregularly on board ship, but dies on their wedding night when his wound hemorrhages. His mother is now officially taipan. Angelique is at first hysterical and nearly goes mad. When she recovers, she find she has gained wisdom and an icy calm and lost all fear. She plans to outwit Tess Struan, with the help of Edward Gornt, who hopes to marry her and also obtain revenge on Tess' family.

Tyrer discovers his "friend" is a dangerous assassin wanted by Lord Yoshi and must be handed over as part of a deal, but the shishi disappears. He hides out with his "sensei" and others in the brothel district. As the government samurai close their net, the sensei decides on a suicide mission: to set fire to the Yokohama settlement and sink the largest foreign ship in the harbour. Tyrer's friend is horrified but cannot disobey. The firebombs go off, the shishi saves Tyrer's life while the French spy dies in the flames. Though the brothel district and native village are destroyed, the foreign settlement and military camp are relatively undamaged, so the foreigners do not leave, thus subverting the purpose of the arson. To escape certain death and also to further his study of the source of foreign power, the shishi gets himself shipped off to England with Tyrer's help.

The story closes with a brief narration of the bombardment of Kagoshima and its aftermath.

Historical basis

As with Clavell's other novels, the setting and many characters are based on actual events, which set the stage for the novel.

Gai-jin characters and firms

Struan and Company (the "Noble House" trading company of the novel) is based on Jardine Matheson Holdings, a massive Scottish trading company that continues to this day as an Asia-based trading company.

Japanese characters

Principal characters

  • Malcolm Struan - grandson of Dirk Struan, eldest son of Culum Struan and heir and soon to be tai-pan of the Noble House
  • Jamie McFay - manager of Struan's in Japan
  • Dr. Ronald Hoag - Struan family physician
  • Sir William Aylesbury, KCB - British Chief Minister to the Japans, head of legation
  • Dr. George Babcott - British Deputy Minister and surgeon
  • Phillip Tyrer - diplomat and apprentice Japanese interpreter
  • Norbert Greyforth - head of Brock and Sons in Japan
  • Lieutenant John Marlowe - captain of HMS Pearl, aide-de-camp to Admiral Ketterer
  • Edward Gornt - gentleman Shanghai trader from Virginia, illegitimate son of Morgan Brock through Kristian Gornt. It is through Gornt that Brock's descendants continued to flourish in Asia. His great-grandson Quillan Gornt was a major character in Noble House.
  • Henri Bonaparte Seratard - French Minister
  • André Édouard Poncin, French spy, ostensibly a trader
  • Count Alexi Zergeyev - Russian Minister
  • Angelique Richaud - beloved of Malcolm Struan, ward of the French Minister
  • Lord Toranaga Yoshi - the Guardian of the Heir
  • Misamoto - Lord Yoshi's interpreter
  • Hiraga - also known as Ukiya, Nakama and Otami, leader of the Choshu shishi
  • Shogun Nobusada Toranaga - heir to the title of Shogun and to the Toranaga family; also mentioned in Noble House and Whirlwind
  • Lady Yazu, wife of Nobusada, stepsister of Emperor Komei
  • Lord Nori Anjo - daimyo of Kii and Mikawa, head of the Council of Elders
  • Lord Sanjiro - daimyo of Satsuma
  • Katsumata - advisor of Sanjiro and secret head of the shishi
  • Lord Ogama - daimyo of Choshu
  • Raiko - mama-san of Yokohama's House of the Three Carp
  • Ori Ryoma - shishi, leader of a Satsuma cell, obsessed with Angelique
  • Sumomo - shishi, Hiraga's fiancée

Secondary characters

  • Culum Struan - son of Dirk Struan, second tai-pan, father of Malcolm
  • Tess (Hag) Struan - de facto tai-pan of the Noble House
  • Gordon Chen - Compradore of the Noble House, illegitimate son of Dirk Struan
  • Admiral Charles Ketterer - commander of the British fleet
  • Captain Settry Pallidar - captain of the Dragoons
  • Dmitri Syborodin - American trader of Cossack descent
  • Heatherly Skye - the only solicitor in Japan
  • John Canterbury - a British trader; killed by samurai while guiding new arrivals on a routine tour of the T?kaid? road.
  • Sir Morgan Brock
  • General Thomas Ogilvy
  • Isiah Adamson - American Minister
  • von Heimrich - Prussian Minister


James Clavell announced in 1981 he wanted to write a novel called Nippon which dealt with descendants of the characters from Shogun.[1]


  1. ^ How Japanese can a Westerner feel?: Author Clavell tried to think as his subjects did INTERVIEW By Arthur Unger. The Christian Science Monitor (1908-Current file) [Boston, Mass] 15 Sep 1980: 23.

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