Yasuke: the African slave turned samurai in Japan

Becoming a samurai in traditional Japan was a source of envy and desire for many, but this honor was an achievement of the few, and usually the title respected blood ties and heredity. Although history has not given so much importance to the “African samurai, ” the fact is that Yasuke played a significant role in late sixteenth-century Japan.

(Source: Pixabay)

He landed in the land of the rising sun in 1579 accompanying Jesuit missionaries (when he was a bodyguard to one of them) and eventually gained such prominence and confidence that he became a confidant and right-hand man of warlord Oda Nobuna, a responsible for trying to end clan conflicts and start unifying the country.

From slavery to nobility

According to historical reports, he caught the eye as soon as he set foot in Japan, after all, no one there had ever met a black man before and probably had never seen such tall people - he was over 1.80 m, while the Japanese average was 1.50 m at the time.

The warlord, Nabuna, was impressed by the African's displays of strength and fitness - some reports pointed out that he had the strength of 10 men! After that, Yasuke's path to the nobility was already drawn: the Jesuit he served as a bodyguard offered him to Oda Nabuna, who in turn gave him a post in his personal bodyguard.

According to legend, the confidence was such that in the year 1582, when Akechi Mitsuhide surrounded Nabunaga in Kyoto and everything was already lost, he ordered Yasuke to prevent his head from falling into the enemy's hands - Nobunaga performed a ritual of suicide on being defeated.

Uncertain fate

No one knows exactly what happened to Yasuke after that. There is evidence to indicate that its trajectory was remembered in Japan for another century, gradually fading into oblivion. Today, the African samurai has been reborn and is part of anime, plays, books, movies and even become a PC gaming character.