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Cyril Sermon (@admin)
14 days ago
THE WORLD'S FIRST BLACK SAMURAI WARRIOR Almost 500 years ago, a tall African man arrived in Japan. He would go on to become the first foreign-born man to achieve the status of a samurai warrior. Kidnapped as a child, Yasuke had ended up a servant and bodyguard to the head of the Jesuits in Asia, with whom he traversed India and China learning multiple languages as he went. His arrival in Kyoto, however, literally caused a riot. Most Japanese people had never seen an African man before, and many of them saw him as the embodiment of the black-skinned Buddha. Among those who were drawn to his presence was Lord Nobunaga, head of the most powerful clan in Japan. When Yasuke was presented to Oda Nobunaga, the Japanese daimyō thought that his skin must have been coloured with black ink. Nobunaga had him strip from the waist up and made him scrub his skin. "His height was 6 shaku 2 sun (roughly 6 feet, 2 inches (1.88m)... he was black, and his skin was like charcoal," a fellow samurai, Matsudaira Ietada, described him in his diary in 1579. The average height of a Japanese man in 1900 was 157.9m (5 feet 2 inches) so Yasuke would have towered over most Japanese people in the 16th Century, when people were generally shorter due to worse nutrition. Yasuke was not just different in height and appearance. He was also very muscular and well built. His strength can be compared to those of 10 men put together. He was indeed a born warrior, a hulk, and a samurai in waiting. One other feature that made Yasuke stand out was his level of intelligence. His mastery of the Japanese language in such a short time was a marvel to many. He was able to learn the culture and tradition of the people. When Nobunaga realized that the African's skin was indeed black, he took an interest in him. Yasuke already spoke some Japanese and the two men got on well, according to academic Thomas Lockley, who has written a book on Yasuke. Nobunaga grew fond of Yasuke and treated him like family - the African was among a very select group of people allowed to dine with him. Yasuke was taken in by the warlord to become his weapon bearer. To be a weapon bearer to the most powerful warlord in the whole of Japan was a great privilege and honor. The weapon bearer must also be one who can be trusted with secrets, especially those relating to affairs outside the state. Yasuke’s hard work and diligence paid off, and within a few months, he was rewarded with a home in Azuchi Castle, which was located in the north-eastern province of Kyoto. Yasuke also received a stipend and was gifted with a Katana sword. History has it that the Katana sword is regarded as the symbol of a samurai warrior. When Nobunaga bestowed the rank of samurai on Yasuke the idea of a non-Japanese samurai was something unheard of. As the first foreign-born samurai, Yasuke fought important battles alongside Oda Nobunaga.