The transatlantic slave trade that Europeans engaged in during the 16th century is said to have given Japan its first black man, who went on to become the first black Samurai in the nation and go down in history.
Yasuke, as he was known, is thought to have been born in Mozambique in or around 1555. He served as a slave for Italian Jesuit Alessandro Valignano.
In 1579, Yasuke traveled to Japan with Valignano, who was in charge of the Jesuit missions, a learned religious order of the Catholic Church that had its origins in sixteenth-century Spain.
The presence of the black man who was taller than the regular Japanese and believed to have the strength of ten men caused a stir and gave Yasuke an audience with the Japanese hegemon and warlord Oda Nobunaga.
According to a 1581 letter written by Jesuit Luís Fróis to Lourenço Mexia, Yasuke was presented to Nobunaga who suspected his skin was coloured with black ink.
He had him strip and scrub his skin to prove his claim. This was also recorded in the 1582 Annual Report of the Jesuit Mission in Japan.
Nobunaga took a keen interest in Yasuke when he was convinced his skin was in fact black. He added him to his servants and enjoyed talking to him, according to many Japanese books.
The archives of the Japanese Maeda Samurai clan noted that “the black man was given his own residence and a short, ceremonial katana [Samurai sword] by Nobunaga. Nobunaga also assigned him the duty of weapon bearer.”
In 1582, Yasuke fought alongside the Nobunaga-led forces in the tribal battle called Battle of Tenmokuzan. Nobunaga was attacked and he was forced to commit seppuku [Japanese ritual suicide].
Yasuke was eventually captured by the rival clan after Nobunaga ‘s death, who described him as an animal and not Japanese. His life was saved and the Jesuits were returned to him.
No account is given of the rest of Yasuke ‘s life and of how he died. He has, however, been depicted by 16th-century Japanese artists in many artworks who painted him in service and also in sumo wrestling matches.
Yasuke was also included in Yoshio Kurusu ‘s 1968 Japanese children’s historical fiction book, movies, novels, and publications.
In March 2017, a film written by Gregory Widen about Yasuke was announced to be made by Lionsgate Films and Michael De Luca.
Marilyn Johnman says
Where is the statue located?
Was the film ever made?
Wil Cunningham says
Great To Hear Of This Great Warrior. I Home One Day They Will Make A Movie His Life. Good Information. Thank You. I Also Saw Something About A Black General And Other Blacks You Fought In Some Of there Wars. If This is True Please Let Us Know.
Antqan Mack says
Netflix has a anime show on him
George Mauwe says
As a black man , I am very interested for a Black Slave forener to be came a front man of a civilised country’s warrior in the dark ages of the Black Raised counties around the globe . I am very proud of that Black Hero …
George Mauwe says
As a Blackman , I am very interested to see the history of a Black foreign warrior to be came the mighty warrior of a civilised nation , according to the dark ages of the Black Raised counties around the globe ..
What about his wife, children. He was taken from Mozambique – his life must have been a constant battle to stay alive. He probably witnessed more trauma and abuse than any of us can even begin to fathom.
He was a slave 😞 And I am so sorry for that. No way out, ending up in Japan! Must have been petrifying.
He ended up so strong, he fought battles for other people and he sadly didn’t get to fight for his own 😞