If you've ever played the video game Nioh, you might have noticed a tall, ax-wielding, black samurai named Yasuke. Maybe you're a fan of the Afro Samurai anime. Perhaps you're a Hollywood insider all about Lionsgate's Black Samurai film, which was announced in spring 2017. All of these projects are based on a real person. Yasuke was an African samurai who arrived in Japan with Jesuits during the Sengoku period (the Yasuke Nioh character's massive ax is a fabrication, alas).
During his short stay in the annals of Japanese history, Yasuke rose from slave to vassal to sword bearer. The (maybe) former African slave samurai arrived on Japanese shores in 1579, and only appears in recorded history until 1582. In that small window, he made a huge impression on a very important figure in Japanese history: daimyō (warlord) Oda Nobunaga, whom he served in various capacities. Yasuke was one of few foreigners officially designated a samurai, and he fought in a few major battles, which ought to earn him a spot on the list of awesome samurai.
He Was The Only African Ever Officially Granted The Title 'Samurai' By A Japanese LordPhoto: Artist Unknown / Public Domain
Famed Daimyo (Warlord) Oda Nobunaga Thought Yasuke's Skin Was Painted With Black InkPhoto: Kanō Sōshū / Public Domain
He Was Such A Sensation In 16th Century Japan People Were Crushed To Death Trying To Catch Sight Of HimPhoto: Hiroshige / Public Domain
Those With Black Skin Were Well Respected In Japan At The Time; Yasuke Was Invited To Dine With The Daimyō RegularlyPhoto: Eranglo / CC BY 3.0