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CosmosUp | June 25, 2021

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The Legend of Yasuke, An African Slave Became a Samurai

By | On + -

The first foreigner to be a samurai was a 6-foot-tall African who also was one of the first Africans to ever arrive on the island 500 years ago, during the feudal reign of the legendary Oda Nobunaga, the first of the three unifiers of Japan.

The warlord ordered him to remove his clothes while a flock of servants tried to scrub the “black ink” off his skin. Little did the warlord know that the slave was destined to become the world’s first Black samurai.

The powerful warlord was a worldly and open-minded ruler

Nobunaga was very meritocratic. He could see past the skin. He used the Portuguese and foreigners during that time to his advantage

says Lawrence Winkler, author of Samurai Road.

THE AFRICAN SAMURAI

YASUKE: THE AFRICAN SAMURAI IN JAPAN

Nobunaga also praised Yasuke’s strength and stature, describing “his might as that of 10 men,” and brought him into his service, called him Yasuke (most likely a Japanization of his birth name or Christian name) and granted him a sum of money, a house and a katana (tend to be one of the most traditional types of ceremonial weapons and were not intended for combat use and were adorned with jewels, inscriptions and/or made of precious metal).

From that point on, Yasuke remained an important member of the daimyō’s retinue, loyally serving him as an honored samurai. He had gone from being a piece of Portuguese property to a member of the Japanese elite.

In 1582,Nobunaga’s story came to an abrupt end when he was betrayed by one of his vassals, Akechi Mitsuhide. Yasuke reportedly fought bravely during the final confrontation, helping to defend his master’s castle from Mitsuhide’s forces.

When wounded Nobunaga saw that there was no escape, he committed seppuku rather than face surrender and dishonor while Yasuke battled on long after all was lost, before finally handing over his sword to the enemy, and he was spared because he was not Japanese and sent back to the Jesuits, with whom he supposedly spent the rest of his days.

It is interesting how a man from a totally different culture had adopted to become one of the best samurais taking into account that this is still considered to this day one of the most complex warriors from the medieval times

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  1. joselito castillo

    what an awesome experience for him to be a part of such great warriors…

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