Samurai File 12 / Yasuke

2013.05.18 [HISTORY,WHAT'S NEW]

Yasuke, The First Foreign Samurai.

Yesterday marked 393 years since William Adams, or Miura Anjin died at the age of 55.
The Englishman is often referred to as the first foreign samurai, however, before Adams,
there was Yasuke.


Remembered in the Diary of Oda Nobunaga, the Shincho Koki,
as well as in the records of the missionaries of the time, Yasuke
was a slave, believed to have originally come from Mozambique
or the Congo region, and brought to Japan in 1579 by the Jesuit
missionary, Alessandro Valignano. The man accompanied his
master to Kyoto and caused quite a sensation as crowds flocked
to see the 188cm tall, black skinned man. In fact, some people
were killed in the crush to see him.


On March 23, 1581, he was brought before Oda Nobunaga, who
believed the man’s dark skin was painted on, and so had the slave
stripped to the waist and scrubbed. Nobunaga was impressed with
the man’s size, strength and intelligence. This Yasuke had learned
to speak some Japanese, and Nobunaga enjoyed talking to the man.


Discribed as being about 25 years old, healthy and good looking,
Yasuke was well treated by the great lord, who requested he be
left in Nobunaga’s care, and was awarded the position of Shiki,
or samurai, and the two swords of the office. The loyal Yasuke
was with Nobunaga on that fateful day in June 1582, when
Nobunaga was assassinated by the traitor, Akechi Mitsuhide.
As Nobunaga died in the burning temple, Yasuke ran to where Nobunagas’s son and heir, Nobutada,
was staying and joined him in entering and defending Nijo Castle.




Yasuke fought alongside Nobutada before capitulating to the Akechi samurai. Mitsuhide was unsure of what
to do with the foreigner, and so returned him to the Jesuit church in Kyoto. After that, there is no record of
Yasuke, the first foreign samurai.  (The attached picture is from a book on Yasuke written by children’s
author Kurusu Yoshio in 1943.)


Related Article of this Post

2015.07.20 CULTURE Samurai Signatures, Kao (花押)
2015.07.20 DISCOVERY Ninja didn’t wear black!
2015.07.19 CULTURE Samurai Signaling Devices, Horagai, Conch Shell Horns.
2015.07.19 HISTORY [Archive]Samurai File
2015.07.18 DISCOVERY Samurai File; Date Masamune
2015.07.15 DISCOVERY Samurai File; Horio Yoshiharu(1542 – July 26, 1611)
2014.03.19 DISCOVERY Samurai File 18; Honda Tadakatsu
2013.12.29 ENTERTAINMENT BOOK; The 47 Ronin Story / John Allyn


Chris Glenn
Chris Glenn
Sam Ryan
Sam Ryan
中島 大蔵
中島 大蔵
Les Paterson
Les Paterson
山口 晃司
山口 晃司
湯浅 大司
湯浅 大司
Adam Blackrock
Adam Blackrock
中島 繁正
中島 繁正
Pauline Chakmakjian
Pauline Chakmakjian
view more


Japanese Wooden Barrel Cooper Craftsman, Kurita Minoru Kurita Minoru was born in Nagoya on July 4, 1…More

Nagoya Butsudan (Home Buddhist Altar) Craftsman, Goto Katsumi   Goto Katsumi is the third gener…More

Nagoya Yuzen,  Traditional ArtisanMitsuhisa Horibe    Mr.Mitsuhisa Horibe was born in Nagoya in…More


Samurai Signatures, Kao (花押) Samurai Signatures, Kao (花押)  Kao (花押) were stylised identification sig…More

Ninja didn’t wear black! Ninja didn’t wear black! Despite the popular image of the black clothed and…More

Samurai File; Shimazu Tadahisa Samurai File; Shimazu Tadahisa (??-August 1, 1227)  Shimazu Tadahisa,…More


Book; Shogun /  James Clavell  In Osaka castle in the autumn of 1598, the great Japanese leader Toyo…More

The 47 Ronin Story / John Allyn In late 2013, Hollywood released its re-imagined version of the clas…More

BOOK REVIEW; Japonius TyrannusThe Japanese Warlord, Oda Nobunaga reconsidered. This is a brilliant b…More



Japan World mail updates !
Get Japan’s history, culture, events with this free service. Register your e-mail below, then press 「登録する」(left) to register, or「登録解除」to cancel.