Yasuke – The African Samurai!

Yasuke – The African Samurai!

Yes, indeed. It may sound far-fetched or even a fiction of our imagination but “Yasuke” is an entirely true figure and somewhat confusing and mysterious to many, even today.

According to scripts, books and other findings (as well as the historian Lawrence Winkler), “Yasuke” first visited Japan over 450 years ago and went on to become the first foreign-born man to achieve the status of a samurai warrior. There are still no known or recognised records of “Yasuke’s” date or country of birth but most historians note that his ancestry was probably of Mozambique, Ethiopian or Nigerian descent

He truly caused a “stir” in Nihon and specifically Kyoto (the country’s capital at the time) with his large and very different stature – unlike any they had seen before. It was this unlikely attribute that initially brought interest to him as he stood way taller (around 6 feet and 2 inches) than the average Samurai (5 feet 2 inches) as well as the fact he clearly possessed fighter experience.

Within less than a year, he had already gained Samurai status (the upper echelons of Japan’s warrior class) and was speaking Japanese fluently. He was trained under the famous Oda Nobunaga – a powerful 16th Century Japanese feudal lord who was the first of the three unifiers of Japan. “Yasuke” has been documented to have taken part in several of Oda’s military campaigned and was revered as a powerful and skilled samurai amongst his peers.

Yasuke has slowly gained notoriety through articles and books and is now also been made into a Hollywood movie by Narcos” co-creator Doug Miro who is writing the script. Chadwick Boseman is the chosen one to “tackle” this complicated role of “Yasuke” to which he noted:

“The legend of Yasuke is one of history’s best kept secrets, the only person of non-Asian origin to become a samurai,” Boseman said. “That’s not just an action movie, that’s a cultural event, an exchange, and I am excited to be part of it.”

French-Ivorian writer Serge Bile was so intrigued by Yasuke’s extraordinary rise that he wrote a book about the warrior.

“It’s part of the mystery surrounding this character. That’s why he fascinates me,” he told the BBC.

Unfortunately, the legend of Yasuke came to an abrupt and sudden end in 1582 as his master – Nobunaga – was attacked by his own generals, entrapped in his room and eventually ended his own life by performing harakiri, a ritual suicide. It was this event that resulted in the exile of the first black samurai, possibly back to a Jesuit mission in Kyoto.

Japanese cartoons, anime and even tv programs have consistently documented the character of “Yasuke”, the best example been the award-winning children’s book Kuro-suke (kuro meaning “black” in Japanese) by Kurusu Yoshio.

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