The Story of Yasuke, The First and Only Black Samurai in Japanese History
The story of Yasuke (彌介), the first and only black samurai in Japan‘s history is something worth reading because it just proves to show you that anything is possible, even in the harshest historical periods, when some people managed to do amazing things.
The first and only black Japanese samurai was one of the ‘Right Hand Men’ working for the Japan’s 16th century warlord, Oda Nobunaga. It is not exactly clear what Yasuke’s (彌介) real name was, it is only certain that this is what they called him. A recent discovery in 2013, after an investigation done by ‘Discovery of the World’s Mysteries (世界ふしぎ発見) shows that Yasuke was a Makua named Yasufe. Makua is the largest ethnic group in Mozambique today.
In 1579, Yasuke arrived in Japan from Mozambique as “the servant/slave of the Italian Jesuit Alessandro Valignano. On arrival in the land of the rising Sun; his appearance caused a stir between the locals as they crumbled and stumbled upon each other in a bid to catch a glimpse of this strange looking individual.” notes Japanese Weapons.org.
The warlord Oda Nobunaga was very much intrigued by the idea that Yasuke, a black man, could speak Japanese, even though it was not perfect. He gave an order to Valignano to leave his black servant/slave in his care. He shortly became one of Nobunaga’s favorites, and was also considered an exotic and prized possession in the warlord‘s vast eccentric collection.
Getting so attached to Yasuke, Nobunaga was even rumored to have offered his black slave the title of Daimyo, meaning ‘Japanese land-owning lord’. Later, these rumors were proven wrong, but since the warlord was so impressed with Yasuke’s physical attributes, he awarded his subject the title of Samurai (shikan) – which is a very rare honor for a foreigner, not to mention a servant or slave.
Although not much is known about Yasuke and his later ventures, his outstanding and never before seen ascension through medieval Japan‘s social hierarchy is still highly appreciated and spoken about in Japanese folklore even today. He is also evidenced in Kuro-suke (くろ助), a fictional history show fr children.