Yusuke Was a Former Slave From Africa Who Became Japan's First Black Samurai in the 1500s


Yasuke, a warrior during the 1500s who became the world's first Black samurai, earned the title and rank while serving under the rule of Oda Nobunaga, a powerful leader in Japan in the 16th century. Yasuke's origin, however, is uncertain because while historians agree that he was a slave, they can't agree from which country he came from - Mozambique, Ethiopia, Sudan, or South Africa.

According to a credible book entitled African Samurai: The True Story of Yasuke, Yasuke was a retainer and a weapons bearer who had fought in many battles including the Battle of Tenmokunzan and the Honnō–Ji incident, an attempt to kill Nobunaga.

He met Nobunaga shortly after he arrived in Japan with an Italian Jesuit missionary named Alessandro Valignano on an inspection tour and had gotten along well with the feudal Lord cause he was a great conversationalist who already knew how to speak Japanese.

According to historian Lawrence Winkler, when Yasuke arrived in Kyoto the former capital of Japan in 1579, there was a great sensation, people climbed over one another just to get a glimpse of him leading to the death of some people. He was said to be 1.82m tall which is very unlikely for Japanese Citizens.

When they were ambushed by his general, Akechi Mitshuhide, Nobunaga committed a suicide ritual (also known as seppuku), but it was said that before he killed himself that he had asked Yasuke to decapitate him and take his head and sword to his son.

As for Yasuke, some say he was exiled because he had refused to commit seppuku but instead surrendered his sword. Sadly, however, it's still very uncertain how his legacy ended because of unverified records of his life after 1582.