Do you know the first foreign Samurai, Yasuke from Africa?

Do you know the first foreign Samurai, Yasuke from Africa?

I’m Nobu, I like traveling overseas and in Japan, visited 25 countries. I’ve got the license of the certificate English guide in Japan for 8 years.

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16th century civil war age Japan

Nobunaga armor
Nobunaga armor

The first foreign samurai in Japan was a black samurai, Yasuke from Africa Mozambique.

Black samurai

Japan in the 16th century was a civil war era when powerful samurai vied for supremacy.

It was known as the Civil War Period, and various significant events occurred during this period in Japan’s history.

Do you know that the first foreign samurai was among them?

His name was given as Yasuke, and he was depicted in several historical documents.

Nobunaga Oda

Yasuke, this African man became a vassal of Nobunaga Oda, the first feudal lord who proceeded to unify Japan in the 16th century.

Nobunaga Oda
Nobunaga Oda

According to historian Lawrence Winkler, Yasuke arrived in Kyoto, the capital of Japan, in 1579.

He is said to have been the subject of much clamor of Kyoto people.

People clambered over each other to get a glimpse of him.

Ietada Matsudaira, a vassal of Ieyasu Tokugawa , wrote in his diary in 1579 about his sighting of Yasuke.

It says, “His skin is like ink black , and he is described as 182 cm tall’.


Yasuke accompanied the Jesuit missionary Alessandro VALIGNANO on a tour of propagation to Japan.

Black samurai

We know from old Jesuit records that Valignano owned three Africans in Mozambique before coming to Japan.

And kept one of them in his possession to study at the seminary.

It is believed that this African would have been Yaske.

Yasuke was brilliant and could speak not only African and Indian languages, but also Japanese after he came to Japan.

Nobunaga Oda, a famous samurai, liked Yasuke, recruited him as a vassal.

Then gave him the status of a samurai.

It is said that Nobunaga accompanied Yasuke in battle and was always by his side.

Nobunaga Oda, who was trying to create a new order in Japan, may have been interested in hearing stories from Yasuke about Africa, India, and other unknown countries.

Yasuke was also described as a “juninriki,” or a man of ten strength.

Sumo wrestlers
Sumo wrestlers
Picture scroll
Picture scroll

Also along with his large body, he seemed to excel in martial arts.

One of the picture scrolls of feudal age shows a black sumo wrestler wrestling against ten other samurais.

And there is a guy in front of a wrestling samurais believed to be Nobunaga Oda.

The black wrestler is not wearing a hairdo like the Japanese, and is recognizable as a foreigner.

It is said that this may be the figure of Yasuke, a man of ten strength.

Honnoji incident

There is a record that Yasuke fought alongside Nobunaga Oda at the time of the Honnoji Incident in 1582.

Honnoji incident
Honnoji incident

Nobunaga Oda was killed by his subordinate Mitsuhide Akechi.

After Nobunaga committed suicide, it is also recorded that Yasuke visited Nobunaga’s son’s place nearby and fought together again.

Black samurai

However, they were defeated by the troops of Mitsuhide Akechi.

Yasuke surrendered, offering his sword.

But Mitsuhide Akechi did not kill Yasuke because he was a foreigner, but sent him back to the Jesuit church according to the record.

There is no historical record of Yasuke after that.

Yasuke today

Although Yasuke is shrouded in mystery, it is true that he was the first foreign black samurai and lived Japan on 16th century.

Hollywood was planning to make a movie about Yasuke starring Chadwick Boseman , but not sure after Chadwick death.

Chadwick Boseman

Netflix has launch anime ”Yasuke’ last year.


Are you interested in the true story of Japan’s samurai days?

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