The Legendary Black Samurai | Summary and Q&A

January 3, 2020
Today I Found Out
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The Legendary Black Samurai


Yasuke, a former slave from Africa, became the only known foreigner to be granted the title of samurai in feudal Japan, serving under the famous warlord Oda Nobunaga.

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Questions & Answers

Q: How did Yasuke become a samurai in Japan?

Yasuke's journey to becoming a samurai began when he arrived in Japan as a servant to an Italian Jesuit missionary. His unique appearance and skills caught the attention of Oda Nobunaga, who granted him samurai status.

Q: Why was Yasuke the only foreigner to become a samurai?

Foreigners were rarely given the honor of being samurai in feudal Japan. Yasuke's impressive physical attributes and Nobunaga's fascination with other cultures contributed to his exceptional status.

Q: What happened to Yasuke after Nobunaga's death?

After Nobunaga's death, Yasuke fought alongside him and then escaped to join Nobunaga's son. However, the son was eventually defeated, and Yasuke's fate remains unknown.

Q: Did Yasuke's skin color cause any issues or discrimination in Japan?

While there were few black people in Japan at the time, there is little evidence of racism towards Yasuke. His foreign presence and unique appearance drew crowds, but there is no documented evidence of discrimination against him.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Yasuke, a man of unknown origins from Africa, arrived in Japan in 1579 and quickly gained attention due to his dark skin and towering height.

  • He caught the interest of Oda Nobunaga, a powerful Japanese warlord, who ordered Yasuke to be scrubbed to verify his skin color, confirming that it was natural.

  • Yasuke became a trusted servant and eventually a samurai under Nobunaga, being given his own house, salary, and status as a warrior.

  • However, Yasuke's time with Nobunaga was cut short when the warlord was betrayed and committed suicide. Yasuke's fate after this event remains unclear.

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