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Degrees of Separation

Six degrees of separation is the theory that anyone on earth can be connected to any other person on the planet through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than five intermediaries. In the search for the answer to our overarching question of pirates versus ninjas, it only seems fair to examine the degrees of separation between ninjas and pirates. Surely, in the beginning of the 17th century the world was too large for ninjas and pirates to be connected?
  • Hattori Hanzo is the famous leader of Iga Ryu, a famous ninja house. He lived from 1541 until 1596. While he lived, he worked closely with the man who would become Shogun: Tokugawa Ieyasu.

  • Tokugawa Ieyasu was the Shogun of Japan from 1603 until his death in 1616. He is known to have relied upon Hattori Hanzo and the Iga ninjas for information gathering, infiltration, and sabotage. Even though Hattori died in 1596, Tokugawa still had dealings with the ninjas. In fact, during the Battle of Winter and the Battle of Summer (1614-1615), ninjas played their largest role ever in assisting him. In 1600, Tokugawa met an Englishman who washed up in Japan on a Dutch trading vessel. He would eventually make that man the first foreign-born samurai. Anjin-sama was his Japanese name, but to the English he was William Adams.

  • William Adams was pilot-major of a fleet of five Dutch vessels bound for the far east on a trading expedition. In 1600, his vessel, the Liedfe, was the only one to make it to its destination with a scant 24 men still alive. Adams eventually established himself in Japan, where he lived until his death in 1620, and Tokugawa eventually became Shogun. In 1604, Tokugawa wanted to bring more trade to Japan, so he sent off two survivors of the Liedfe (Melchior van Santvoort and Jacob Quaeckernaeck) to meet with the Dutch East India Company.

  • The Dutch East India Company mainly did business with India and its surrounding regions, however they also did business in Japan after being contacted by Tokugawa and Adams. In 1607, the DEIC sent a man into Asia who would distinguish himself as a trader, a sailor, and eventually a pirate: Piet Hein.

  • Piet Hein was an agent of the DEIC for nearly twenty years. He distinguished himself with his long service and his rise to vice-admiral. Towards the end of his career he became a pirate by disguising his vessels as merchant men and then plundering those who came to plunder him. He is perhaps most known for his daring capture of a Spanish treasure fleet, in which he secured twelve vessels by forcing them all to surrender to him.
  • Dutch pirateship in Japanese waters


    For some readers, connecting ninjas to Piet Hein is unsatisfactory. To that end, we provide the following separation:

    Hattori Hanzo to Tokugawa Ieyasu to William Adams to Sir Francis Drake
  • Sir Francis Drake is one of the most celebrated British captains and pirates. He circumnavigated the globe, plundered ships and coastal towns, amassed one of the largest pirate hoards in history, and died of dysentery while trying to sack San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1596. William Adams served under Drake in the Royal Navy in 1588. Even though Drake was dead by 1596 and even though while Adams was serving under him he was not a pirate, Drake and Adams are undeniably associated.


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