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The Amazing Story of Yasuke, The Forgotten African Samurai

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The Amazing Story of Yasuke, The Forgotten ******** Samurai

Samurai are among the most enduring symbols of ********* cultural heritage, thus unsurprisingly, most samurai were *********. There are, however, examples of non-********* who became samurai as well. The most famous western example is the English sailor William Adams (1564-1620) who came to Japan in 1600 and was able to rise through the ranks to eventually become a samurai. But one of the most memorable examples would probably be an ******** by the name of Yasuke who was made a samurai by the ********* Daimyo Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582) after taking on the role of his bodyguard. Yasuke was brought to Japan in 1579 by Jesuit missionaries and gained the attention and interest of the ********* nobleman.

Yasuke’s Rise as a Samurai

Yasuke’s origins are shrouded in mystery.  He was probably born between 1555 and 1566, but even that is not certain. Historians are not even sure of the origin of his name, though it is most likely the ********* form of his original name. According to one source, he may have been a Makua from Mozambique. It has also been suggested that he was from Angola or Ethiopia. Additionally, he may have been a *********-born ****** from Portugal.

Whatever his origin, Yasuke first appears in history in 1579 as an attendant of the Jesuit missionary Alessandro Valignano coming to Japan to visit the missions that had been set up there. As such, Yasuke was most likely a ******. Yasuke’s ****** skin and large stature generated a lot of interest from the native ********* and many are said to have come to see him at the ******* which the Jesuits had constructed in Kyoto. This commotion caught the interest of the Daimyo, Lord Nobunaga, who asked for an audience with him.

17th century ********* painting depicting a group of Portuguese foreigners. (

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Nobunaga apparently was skeptical that Yasuke’s ****** skin was genuine and had him remove his shirt and rub his skin to show that it wasn’t ink. Nobunaga was nonetheless impressed by Yasuke’s height. He is recorded to have been over 6 feet (182cm) tall, even as much as 6’5” (195.5cm)  in an era where most ********* men were closer to 5 feet (152 cm) tall. This height would have made him very imposing to most indigenous inhabitants of the islands.

Nobunaga soon made Yasuke his retainer and bodyguard. He was eventually made a samurai in 1581 and stationed at Nobunaga’s Azuchi Castle. After this, Nobunaga would invite Yasuke to dine at his table, an unusual privilege even for a samurai. He was also made the Daimyo’s sword bearer with his own katana. During this time, he learned to speak ********* fluently as well.

An artist’s illustration of Yasuke the samurai. (

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The End of His Samurai Career

Yasuke’s career as a samurai would not last long. In 1582, Nobunaga’s general, Mitsuhide, started a coup to overthrow him. Mitsuhide stormed the temple where Nobunaga was staying in Kyoto. Nobunaga, convinced of his imminent defeat at the hands of his treacherous general, committed Seppuku – ritual ********. After Nobunaga’s ******, Yasuke fled to back to the Azuchi castle and entered the service of his son, Odo Nobutada. His son, however, also committed ******** after suffering defeat at the hands of Mitsuhide.

An imagined portrait of Oda Nobunaga, by Jesuit painter Giovanni Niccolò, 1583–1590. (

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Mitsuhide was not very impressed with Yasuke and dismissed him as “a ******” and not a true samurai. The reason for this was that rather than committing honor ********, the norm after defeat in ********* culture, Yasuke apparently offered his sword to Mitsuhide following Western custom. It was undoubtedly because of this rejection that Yasuke returned to the service of Valignano and soon returned to obscurity. The Jesuits, however, were glad to see that he had survived and thanked **** for his return.   

********-********* Contact

There is little indisputable evidence for an ******** presence in Japan before Yasuke, though there are some interesting historical examples which suggest the possibility of ********-********* contact. There is a ********* proverb which says, “For a Samurai to be brave, he must have a bit of ****** blood.” It is uncertain of course whether this is referring to people with dark skin or some other meaning of the word ******. It is possible that the expression “****** blood” could be completely unrelated to someone who is of ****** ******** descent and have had a very different meaning in ancient ********* culture.

Samurai armor. (

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The one problem with this hypothesis, however, is that the ****** ******, in ********* culture, is associated with ******, *****, and sorrow (among other similar concepts.) While it’s plausible that ancient ********* society might have perceived bravery as entailing these qualities, it’s not imperative to assume such a correlation. It would probably be, yet another quality associated with the ****** ******.

Another figure in ********* history considered by some to be of ******** descent is Sakanouye No Tamuramaro, a warrior who came to be considered a paragon of warrior virtues. He lived during the Heian ******* (794-1185 AD) from about 758 to 811 and was a palace guard of Emperor Kammu (reigned 781-806). He was placed in command of the forces that the emperor sent to ****** the Ainu. This warrior is said to have had a “****** complexion.”

‘Sakanoue Tamuramaro in Rain of Arrows.’ (

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Once again, this is not unequivocal evidence for an ******** presence in ancient Japan, but it does nonetheless reveal that the history of contact between Japan and the rest of the world may have been more complex than previously believed.

Historical Inspiration: Yasuke, the ******** Warrior

Over the years, films and video games in popular culture have been based on this interesting character. Yasuke, an original net animation (ONA) series, draws loose inspiration from the historical figure of the same name. This figure, Yasuke, was an ******** warrior who served under the ********* daimyo Oda Nobunaga during Japan’s Sengoku ******* of samurai conflict in the 16th century. LeSean Thomas created the series, and it was animated by the ********* animation studio MAPPA. Lakeith Stanfield takes on the role of the titular character. The series made its debut on

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on April 29, 2021.

Top Image: Samurai gold armor statue. Source: 

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By Caleb Strom

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japan, samurai, Warriors, Warring States *******
#Amazing #Story #Yasuke #Forgotten #******** #Samurai

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