A Portuguese Jesuit named Padre Louis Frois, who was one of the first Europeans to write extensively about Japan, described Murakami Takeyoshi as the most powerful pirate in Japan and a man feared by all.

The Murakami clan dominated the Inland Sea for more than 200 years from late in the 14th century. Alongside their legitimate fishing and salt-making activities, these consummate seafarers also excelled at piracy and became very powerful due to their control of key sea routes. Some of their recorded activities included: escorting vessels to ensure (at a price) their safe passage, operating toll barriers, hijacking ships and fighting naval battles with rivals.

As a young boy, I had been fascinated by pirates after going on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. So, after first hearing about the Murakami pirates during a lengthy sojourn in Japan several years ago, I was eager to learn as much as I could about them. Also, the sheer beauty and charm of the Inland Sea was alone enough for me to return there on any pretext. During this past, sweltering summer I got that chance — and planned a trip to navigate the old stomping ground of the pirates of the Inland Sea.