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    For the anime based on him, see Yasuke (TV series).

    Yasuke Born Unknown

    Africa, probably Ethiopia, South Africa or Mozambique[1][2]

    Died Unknown

    Allegiance Oda clan, Oda Nobunaga

    Rank Retainer, weapon-bearer[1][3]


    Battle of Tenmokuzan

    Honnō-ji Incident[4]

    Yasuke (弥助 or 弥介) was a man of African origin who served as a (家臣, retainer) under the Japanese daimyō Oda Nobunaga.[5]

    In 1579, Yasuke arrived in Japan in the service of the Italian Jesuit missionary Alessandro Valignano, Visitor of Missions in the Indies, in India. Yasuke was one of the several Africans to have come with the Portuguese to Japan during the Nanban trade and is thought by some to have been the first African that Nobunaga had ever seen.[6][][7] He was also present during the Honnō-ji Incident, the forced suicide of Nobunaga at the hands of his general Akechi Mitsuhide on 21 June 1582.[8]


    1 Theories about early life

    1.1 Sudanese claims

    1.2 Ethiopian claims

    2 Documented life in Japan

    3 Possible depictions in art

    4 In popular culture

    5 See also 6 References 6.1 Citations 6.2 Sources 7 Further reading 8 External links

    Theories about early life[edit]

    According to , written by Jesuit priest François Solier of the Society of Jesus in 1627, Yasuke was likely from Mozambique.[1][2] No further account corroborates this assumption. This would be consistent with other accounts of Africans from Mozambique in Japan. According to Fujita Midori, the first African people who came to Japan were Mozambican. They reached Japan in 1546 as shipmates or slaves who served Portuguese captain Jorge Álvares (not to be confused with another explorer of the same name who died in 1521).[9]

    In 2013, a Japanese TBS television program titled (世界ふしぎ発見!, "Discovery of the World's Mysteries!") suggested that Yasuke was a Makua named Yasufe.[10] This name seems to be derived from the more popular Mozambican name Issufo.[11] However, the program provided little evidence for its conclusions. The Makua are not documented as having had any significant contact with the Portuguese based in Mozambique until 1585.[12]

    Yasuke may have been a member of the Yao people,[13] or from the more inland area of Mozambique.[14] Yao people were just coming into contact with the Portuguese at the time, which might account for his name: that is, added to the common Japanese male name suffix of produces .[13]

    Yasuke may have been a slave. Thomas Lockley acknowledges it is possible that Yasuke was enslaved as a child and sent to India, where he could have been employed as a military slave or an indentured soldier, but that he likely obtained his freedom before meeting Valignano.[15][16] Valignano employed him as bodyguard and valet.

    Sudanese claims[edit]

    Another claim suggests that Yasuke was a Dinka from South Sudan. He was famous for his height and extremely dark skin color. The Dinka people are among the tallest in Africa, and have significantly darker skin compared to Ethiopians, Eritreans, or Somalis for example. Adult Dinka men had a ritual custom of drawing decorative patterns on their faces by tattooing, but no account of Yasuke having a face pattern was recorded.[17]

    Ethiopian claims[edit]

    According to another theory, Yasuke was from Ethiopia. Thomas Lockley suggested that this theory is most convincing. Like Yasuke, Ethiopians who were not Jewish (i.e. Beta Israel), Christian (e.g. Amhara), or Muslim were often sold into slavery and called by the Portuguese; they were well‐built and skilled soldiers, unlike other east Africans who suffered from famine.[18] According to this theory, his original name might be the Amharic name or the Portuguese name Isaque, derived from Isaac.[19] was also used as a surname in Ethiopia.[20]

    Documented life in Japan[edit]

    Oda Nobunaga

    Yasuke arrived in Japan in 1579 in service of the Italian Jesuit missionary Alessandro Valignano, who had been appointed the Visitor (inspector) of the Jesuit missions in the Indies (which at that time meant East Africa, South, Southeast, and East Asia). He accompanied Valignano when the latter came to the capital area in March 1581 and his appearance caused much interest with the local people.[21]

    When Yasuke was presented to Oda Nobunaga, the Japanese daimyō thought that his skin must have been colored with black ink. Nobunaga had him strip from the waist up and made him scrub his skin.[22] These events are recorded in a 1581 letter of the Jesuit Luís Fróis to Lourenço Mexia, and in the also by Fróis. These were published in (1598), normally known simply as .[23][24] When Nobunaga realized that the African's skin was indeed black, he took an interest in him.

    The (信長公記, ) corroborates Fróis's account.[25] It describes the meeting thus: "On the 23rd of the 2nd month [23 March 1581], a black page (黒坊主, ) came from the Christian countries. The man was described as robust, black as a bull, and of fine character.[25] Nobunaga's nephew gave him a sum of money at this first meeting."[26] On 14 May, Yasuke departed for Echizen Province with Fróis and the other Christians. During this trip, they met local warlords such as Shibata Katsutoyo, Hashiba Hidekatsu, and Shibata Katsuie.[27] They returned to Kyoto on 30 May.[28]

    Source : en.wikipedia.org

    Yasuke: The mysterious African samurai

    Yasuke was entrusted with decapitating his Japanese lord - a huge honour 500 years ago.

    Yasuke: The mysterious African samurai

    By Naima Mohamud

    BBC News Published 14 October 2019


    Yasuke depicted in a Japanese children's book by Kurusu Yoshio

    Almost 500 years ago, a tall African man arrived in Japan. He would go on to become the first foreign-born man to achieve the status of a samurai warrior, and is the subject of two films being produced by Hollywood.

    Known as Yasuke, the man was a warrior who reached the rank of samurai under the rule of Oda Nobunaga - a powerful 16th Century Japanese feudal lord who was the first of the three unifiers of Japan.

    In 1579, his arrival in Kyoto, the capital at the time, caused such a sensation that people climbed over one another to get a glimpse of him with some being crushed to death, according to historian Lawrence Winkler.

    Within a year, Yasuke had joined the upper echelons of Japan's warrior class, the samurai. Before long, he was speaking Japanese fluently and riding alongside Nobunaga in battle.

    "His height was 6 shaku 2 sun (roughly 6 feet, 2 inches (1.88m)... he was black, and his skin was like charcoal," a fellow samurai, Matsudaira Ietada, described him in his diary in 1579.


    The average height of a Japanese man in 1900 was 157.9m (5 feet 2 inches) so Yasuke would have towered over most Japanese people in the 16th Century, when people were generally shorter due to worse nutrition.

    Making of a warrior

    There are no records of Yasuke's date or country of birth. Most historians say he came from Mozambique but some have suggested other countries such as Ethiopia or Nigeria.

    What is known, however, is that Yasuke arrived in Japan with an Italian Jesuit named Alessandro Valignano on an inspection tour, and appears in recorded history only between 1579 and 1582.

    Some experts say he was a slave, but it is hard to say.

    Floyd Webb and Deborah DeSnoo, filmmakers working on a documentary about him, believe assertions that he was a slave to be speculative at best.

    "It would have been impossible for Yasuke to rise to the rank of a samurai in just a year without a warrior background," Ms DeSnoo says.

    Samurais often began their training in childhood.

    Friendship with the warlord

    Yasuke met Nobunaga shortly after his arrival in Japan and he piqued his interest, the filmmakers say, by being a talented conversationalist.

    Yasuke already spoke some Japanese and the two men got on well, according to academic Thomas Lockley, who has written a book on Yasuke.

    According to Mr Lockley, Yasuke entertained Nobunaga with tales from Africa and India, where Mr Lockley believes Yasuke had spent some time before going to Japan.

    Mr Webb believes that because of his command of the Japanese language, Yasuke would have been viewed favourably.

    "He was unlike the Jesuits, who had a religious agenda for the soul of Japan," Mr Webb says.

    There are reports that Nobunaga instructed his nephew to give Yasuke a sum of money at their very first meeting.


    Yasuke fighting alongside Oda Nobunaga in Kurusu Yoshio's children's book Kuro-suke

    French-Ivorian writer Serge Bile was so intrigued by Yasuke's extraordinary rise that he wrote a book about the warrior.

    "It's part of the mystery surrounding this character. That's why he fascinates me," he told the BBC.

    The African warrior and the Japanese warlord had a lot in common.

    Nobunaga was a great fan of the martial arts and spent a lot of time practising them. He was also an eccentric person, who according to Mr Webb, often dressed in Western-style clothes and sought the company of highly disciplined and intelligent people.

    "[Yasuke] carried the warrior spirit," Mr Webb says. He understood the cultural language of Japan and loved to dance and perform Utenzi - a historic form of Swahili narrative poetry celebrating heroic deeds, Mr Webb adds. This suggests Yasuke could have come from Mozambique, as some historians believe, given that Swahili is still spoken in some northern parts of the country.

    Similarly, Nobunaga was a lover of Noh Drama - a form of classical Japanese musical drama - and it is widely reported that he was a patron of the arts.

    Nobunaga grew fond of Yasuke and treated him like family - the African was among a very select group of people allowed to dine with him.

    "Nobunaga praised Yasuke's strength and stature, describing his might as that of 10 men," Ms DeSnoo says.

    The legend lives on

    When Nobunaga bestowed the rank of samurai on Yasuke the idea of a non-Japanese samurai was something unheard of. Later, other foreigners would also obtain the title.

    As the first foreign-born samurai, Yasuke fought important battles alongside Oda Nobunaga.


    Source : www.bbc.com

    Fact check: Yasuke, an African expatriate, became 16th century samurai

    It's true: A servant from Africa named Yasuke achieved the rank of samurai warrior in Japan in the 16th century.

    Fact check: Famous 16th century Japanese samurai was an African expatriate

    Chelsey Cox USA TODAY

    The claim: African servant named Yasuke became samurai warrior

    Claims about the extraordinary acts of little-known Africans and Black Americans are a tradition in February, which marks Black History Month in the United States.

    A Feb. 4 Instagram post by user Kollege Kidd describes a seemingly anachronistic historical figure: an African samurai named Yasuke.

    "Almost 500 years ago, a tall African man named Yasuke arrived in Japan in 1579. He would go on to become the first foreign-born man to achieve the status of a samurai warrior," reads a statement set above two images of statues that might bear Yasuke's likeness.

    The post caption says Yasuke became a samurai — an elite class of warriors existing between the 10th and 19th centuries, according to PBS — within a year of arriving to Japan.

    Kollege Kidd is a music-related news and Instagram page, co-owner Richard Autry told USA TODAY. The story of Yasuke was posted to the account in honor of Black History Month.

    "We have a large demographic of young people following our account, and we knew they’d find Yasuke’s story interesting," Autry said. "We also figured it to be timely as Netflix revealed in October it would be producing a 'Yasuke' anime series starring Lakeith Stanfield."

    Did such a warrior exist in 16th century Japan? Historical evidence supports the claim.

    More:Why is Black History Month in February? How do you celebrate? Everything you need to know.

    Who was Yasuke?

    The post caption is copied from the six opening paragraphs of a 2019 BBC News article, "Yasuke: The mysterious African samurai."

    Yasuke — likely a Japanese stylized version of "Yasufe", according to Jeff Taylor, author of "Yasuke (African Samurai): The Life and Legend of Japan's First African Samurai" — arrived in Japan in 1579 with Alessandro Valignano, an Italian Jesuit.

    Despite humble origins, the expatriate became the "highest-ranking African man to make his way to medieval Japan," according to Taylor.

    Some historians think Yasuke may have been a slave, but he was hired to protect Valignano on a missionary trip to the Asian country, according to "African Samurai: The True Story of Yasuke, a Legendary Black Warrior in Japan" by Thomas Lockley and Geoffrey Girard.

    Yasuke's country of origin is also a source of debate. He was possibly from Mozambique, Ethiopia or Sudan. A man of his size and coloring was a rare sight for the native Japanese, who followed him wherever he went. Throngs of spectators crushed people beneath their feet trying to catch a glimpse of the tall, dark foreigner, according to Taylor.

    "'His height was 6 shaku 2 sun (roughly 6 feet, 2 inches (1.88m) ... he was black, and his skin was like charcoal,' a fellow samurai, Matsudaira Ietada, described him in his diary in 1579," BBC News reported.

    Yasuke met Oda Nobunaga, a feudal lord and the first of three unifiers of Japan, soon his arrival to its capital Kyoto in 1581, according Taylor. Oda was reportedly impressed by Yasuke's mastery of Japanese and considered his stature and apparent fighting prowess useful in warring Japan, BBC News reported.

    Yasuke was either purchased by Oda or gifted to the clan leader by Valignano, Taylor wrote. Lockley told CNN in 2019 that Yasuke probably achieved the rank of page or bodyguard to Oda.

    As their relationship developed, Oda promoted Yasuke to samurai, according to Taylor. He was given "his own servant, house and stipend, according to Jesuit records," CNN reported.

    Yasuke fought by Oda's side in a series of major battles, including the invasion of Iga Province in 1581, according to CNN. The samurai was with the feudal lord when his samurai general Mitsuhide Akechi turned against Oda a year later.

    Trapped by Mitsuhide's forces, Oda chose suicide over capture or beheading, Taylor wrote. Yasuke was allegedly charged to deliver Oda's severed head to his son and heir, per CNN.

    Yasuke escaped with some of Oda's remaining forces but was later captured by Mitsuhide. The rebel general released Yasuke into Jesuit custody, according to "African Samurai," because he was not Japanese.

    After losing his status as a samurai, Yasuke fought in the Battle of Okitanawate as a "ronin" on the side of the Jesuits between 1581-1582. He disappeared from verifiable records after the autumn of 1582, according to "African Samurai."

    "The fall of Nobunaga at the hands of a treacherous general resulted in the exile of the first black samurai, possibly back to a Jesuit mission in Kyoto," BBC News reported.

    Lockley speculated Yasuke could have resumed his bodyguard role for the Jesuits or become a sailor or pirate, according to CNN.

    The legend of Yasuke

    The legend of Yasuke lives on in the modern era. Japanese children's author Kurusu Yoshio in the late-1960s published "Kuro-suke" about the samurai's life, according a website by filmmakers Floyd Webb and Deborah Ann DeSnoo.

    South African artist Nicola Roos constructed several life-size figurative sculptures based on Yasuke for her 2015 and 2017 installation series "No Man's Land I-IV" and "No Man's Land V." Roos' work is pictured in the Instagram post.

    Source : www.usatoday.com

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