Author Adidas Wilson
3 min readNov 3, 2020

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Yasuke (Image Credit Nicola Roos)

Yasuke — The First Black Samurai

The first six-foot tall African slave to land in Japan stood out like a sore thumb. Everyone wanted to catch a glimpse of him and that almost caused a stampede. It was not a common sight in Kyoto.

Being among the first Africans on the island, a Japanese warlord had him strip and ordered servants to scrub off the “black ink”. The warlord had no idea that the slave would go on and become the first black samurai in the world.

The samurai are an important part of the Japanese cultural heritage — a few foreigners have been known to claim the title. Among the noble Japanese warriors, one unorthodox man is highly noticeable.

Yasuke’s story is like a movie, but he actually donned a kabuto as the first and only African samurai in history. Historians say that he was abducted from western or central African — most probably Mozambique — and sold to Alessandro Valignano, a Jesuit priest.

Father Valignano set out on a missionary trip in 1579, to Japan and brought Yasuke along. History documents say that Yasuke was 24 or 25 years old, six-foot-two and his skin were like charcoal. Yasuke gained a celebrity status when he captured the attention of Oda Nobunaga, a Japanese warlord. Nobunaga was trying hard to bring peace to Japan at the time.

He praised Yasuke saying that his might equaled that of 10 men and he even took him as his bodyguard. Nobody knows what Yasuke’s original name was. Nobunaga was open-minded and saw past the skin color. Yasuke, like all vassals was barely regarded as human. He was expected to be a faithful servant to Oda.

Nobunaga, however, grew fond of him and treated him like one of his family members. Within a year, Yasuke moved from the lowly page status to the upper ranks of samurai, Japan’s warrior class. In a short period of time, Yasuke was fluent in Japanese and began riding alongside Oda in battle — that was a slot of honor, especially reserved for people that Nobunaga trusted and respected. Because of being Oda’s right-hand man, Yasuke had access to enviable privileges such as a ceremonial katana, dining with Nobunaga, and a private residence — not many samurai had these privileges at the time.

A lot of details about Yasuke are still a mystery to date. Information about his early life is vague and his official records were…

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Author Adidas Wilson

Adidas Wilson was born in Chicago, surviving a near death experience driving off a bridge in an 18 wheeler and getting hit by a train. Author and Motivator