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Author reveals the story of Japan's first foreign-born samurai

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By William Hollingworth

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Looking forward to this read.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Interesting article, yet I do not understand the need to put this into it,

He thrilled Nobunaga with his feats of strength. And it is possible the two may have had a sexual relationship.

What's the point? You want to titilate the reader? It is rather well known that Japanese of that era were more open about sex than today, and there was nothing strange about men having relationships together.

It's only the introduction of Judeo-Christian ideas that sex became "dirty" and "perverted". I dont understand the reasoning why it is in this article!

Also;

Yasuke could speak Japanese and the two men got on well. Yasuke entertained the warlord with tales from Africa and India

There is a large gap of information here, like just where did he learn Japanese? It just states, "Yasuke could speak Japanese", it's not like he woke up one morning and started talking.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

“Lockley....... spent nine years trawling through documents and books and visiting battlefields”

And what did Geoffrey Girard do? It seems odd that the co-author is completely ignored in this article. Anyway it sounds like an interesting book.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Sounds kinda gay.

-1 ( +8 / -9 )

You mean it's not Tom Cruise?

13 ( +13 / -0 )

I didn't know any of this. Sounds really intriguing. Especially the part where he "asked Yasuke to give his head and sword to his son", who then committed suicide. Wild. We live in a very different world.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

While the book is based on primary sources, Lockley has had to add quite a lot of "research-based assumptions" in order to complete the narrative.

Is this a fancy way of saying that this book is mostly a work of historical fiction by an English teacher/amateur historian/graduate of the Open University (The UK's premiere adult education distance learning provider)? Or is it a work of serious objective scholarship? Let me guess, I'll have to buy the book to find out.

And what did Geoffrey Girard do? 

Wikipedia describes Geoffrey Girard as: "an author of nonfiction, thrillers, historicals, and speculative fiction". I'm guessing Geoffrey helped to "fill in" many of the missing historical details.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

May be the first "book" about Yasuke. There already was a movie about the guy!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yasuke

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@Yubaru

why does that bother you? I didn’t know anything about Yasuke. If it’s part of history, the more details, the more interesting it is. Would you rather that aspect be ignored?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Lockley has had to add quite a lot of "research-based assumptions"... 

That's what I was afraid of. I haven't read the book, but allow me to surmise the "assumptions" justify today's attitudes on multiculturalism, race, immigration and even LGBT rights.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

Whenever it comes to some aspect of Japanese relatively ancient history that is not well-documented, it always good to see a new book being published, particularly in English.

I look forward to reading the book, knowing full well that it may not be the definitive account of this individual and that it may well including assumptions, hearsay and even outright speculation.

One thing I know about history is that any new book / accounting of some aspect of history inevitability results in further research and even opposing pieces / research.

I just find all of this fascinating. So much of history that is still not common knowledge or not well known.

Can't wait to read the book!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Before the olympics is a great time to release books highlighting how multicultural Japanese society is.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I wonder if this is the source or inspiration for Afro Samurai.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

This story has been known for a long time, but just recently it's started to have a resurgence with brief YouTube videos and online historical accounts.

No doubt Hollywood will soon jump on this as it will be a fascinating story. Any bets on who the lead actor will be?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

It is generally accepted...

By who? My 'general' experience in nearly two decades in Japan is that Japanese people in general do not accept foreigners accounts of Japanese history.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Srry, but I don't accept any line of it.

Again, evidence ?

How could he speak Japanese so fluently ?

How could he become a samurai ?

How could he avoid seppuku ?

Gaijin were killed outside Nagasaki simply for being gaijin. He could not go unnoticed...

No black person were ever entitled any high rank in Europe much closer to Africa during that period...so how come in Japan.

He would appear on some many war scenes if so for example.

2 ( +9 / -7 )

Time this guy's story was told, as fully as the documentation allows. Why not?

The famous Mori Ranmaru who died with Nobunaga during the successful coup at Honnoji was also said to be Nobunaga's 'Kosho', so it would not have been strange for there to have been a sexual element to the relationship with Yasuke. Just a small detail, sure, but such details often give life to a narrative.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"He thrilled Nobunaga with his feats of strength. And it is possible the two may have had a sexual relationship."

Wow... this will NOT sit well with people here, so I suspect we won't be seeing the book translated any time soon, or front and center on the shelves in English book sections at shops like Junku-do and Kinokuniya. Amazon jp probably won't stock it.

Jonathon Prin: "No black person were ever entitled any high rank in Europe much closer to Africa during that period...so how come in Japan."

Because Japan is not Europe, or did you miss that. They may kiss Trump's butt now and have followed European models in the Meiji Era, but that doesn't mean they did everything as Europe did throughout history, my friend.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I remember watching the anime: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cnZS1M23gRE

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Title of samurai is not given to anyone, even nobles or foreign diplomats, merchants etc were not given that title, regardless whether he was carrying a katana sword or purchased land at the time. Even today, how many foreign born politicans are there in our system for example?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@Jonathan Prin

No black person were ever entitled any high rank in Europe much closer to Africa during that period...so how come in Japan.

LOL! See what happens when ignorant people don't know their history!

There were some Black people in Europe, and a Black complexioned knight is found in the Maciejowski Bible, for instance. They were therefore not unknown. But as I pointed out, your color was not an issue in the Middle Ages. Your religion was. I have read of many a lynching, mob action, or massacre in the Middle Ages. Not one was over race. Most were all about religion, and sometimes economic issues.

Even nationalism was not all that strong. For instance, French people might be loyal to their lord or the King, but hardly any thought of France as a thing to be loyal to, until the time of the Hundred Years War.

But religion? Do something like deny the doctrine of transubstantiation, and you would burn at the stake.

The Black soldier or knight in that Bible I referenced is here. He is just one of the crowd:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/bullets4brains/6586668913/in/photostream

Don't forget the Black Moors ruled Europe just like the Vikings, the Romans, and the Turks! Napolean had high ranking Black people in his army.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Yasuke could speak Japanese and the two men got on well. Yasuke entertained the warlord with tales from Africa and India. He thrilled Nobunaga with his feats of strength. And it is possible the two may have had a sexual relationship.

Forgot where i read it but apparently Nobunaga often complimented him on his sword i.e. "you have a nice sword, i like it! And you sure know how to use it".

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Far too much history here in Japan has been romanticized. This book is more like an English language version of the Japanese "jidai geki", where everyone who was a samurai was honorable, even when they weren't!

Even the plug for this book makes this guy seem larger than life, yet, in mainstream Japanese history, there is little mention of him or his exploits. Seems to me that even back then, Japanese were more than a little xenophobic!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Is this a fancy way of saying that this book is mostly a work of historical fiction by an English teacher/amateur historian/graduate of the Open University

Man, people on here just compain about anything. You could give them free money and they'd complain "the notes are dirty."

Time this guy's story was told, as fully as the documentation allows. Why not?

Yeah, why not? As long as it's not romanticized tripe aimed at the gullible, what does it matter?

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Recently the bones of the Brit Will Adams were found another great foreigner with the rank of samurai.

Human remains were found near the memorial stone marked “Miura Anjin” in the traditional location of Adams’ grave in Hirado. They are said to be those of a “northwest European”. Might just be his. Lovely spot.

How could he speak Japanese so fluently ?

The usual way: study and lots of practice.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

But could he use chopsticks?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@ Zichi

After the Portuguese first made contact with Japan in 1543, a large scale slave trade developed in which Portuguese purchased Japanese as slaves in Japan and sold them to various locations overseas, including Portugal itself, throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Right here you're bursting the myth of a " Rich" Japan as is oft portrayed.

Multi nationals, Big pharmas e.t.c. have fed us poisons sanctioned by scientists etc paid for by them to fudge results. How difficult will it be for " History ".?

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

@oldman13

How could he speak Japanese so fluently ?

In the Japanese writings, it was often said that he was able to speak Japanese. Most likely, he learned the language just from being around the people. Prior to being in Japan, he was already capable of speaking multiple languages so it means he has the ability. It can be assumed that he spoke multiple languages from the continent of Africa as many do. Furthermore, he was in service of the Portuguese and Italians so it can be assumed that he also spoke those two languages.

How could he become a samurai ?

Oda Nobunaga, was also famous for being very open minded. There were people from the Koreas that were also given similar treatment. He didn't believe in the caste system and believed that people could move up based on merit and not by virture of birth. He even allowed Japan to become open to multiple religions.

How could he avoid seppuku ?

They mentioned that he was captured during the final battle between Nobutada and the Akechi army. It was there that he was stripped of his title and turned over to a christian camp.

As for learning a language. I can speak Korean very well. I am not good at writing and reading it, but I learned Korean simply from living in Korea and being apart of a horrible study abroad program that gave me a dual degree but it was just studying in Korea in an English environment. I learned to fully communicate in Korean without ever picking up a book. Just from interacting with those around me and paying attention.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

A far fetched tale---with something to arouse the interest of all of the latest fad-followers---homosexuality and diversity.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

I've read Giles Milton's book about William Adams but never heard of Yasuke until this article.

According to the wiki link provided by Yubaru, Yasuke "entered Nobunaga's service... was given his own residence and a short, ceremonial katana by Nobunaga. Nobunaga also assigned him the duty of weapon bearer." On Nobunaga's death he entered the service of his heir Nobutada and then pretty much disappeared from history.

Do these things necessarily mean he had to be of the samurai class? Or is calling him a Samurai some kind of Tom Cruise Hollywood-inspired thing?

Whatever, I think it's potentially an interesting story. I'll have a look at the book, for sure.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@BigYen

When I first came to Japan there was a documentary about him on that Japanese game show. That’s how I first learned about him. Apparently, in the 70’s the most popular Japanese children’s book was about him. I’ve seen the book in the library. Also, most Japanese anime and games that have black samurai are based on him.

As for him being a samurai. He was given that title at the least because only samurai class and above could own lands and carry a sashimono (weapon bearer flag) into battle.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Wiki and other sources claims he was from Mozambique: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yasuke#Early_life

*Yasuke was born in the 1550s in what is now South Sudan and was part of the Dinka tribe. He was sold as a child slave and trafficked to India where he was employed as a bodyguard to Italian Jesuit Alessandro Valignano, who was charged with developing Catholic missions in the Far East.

Yet the book states he is from South Sudan, a country that did not exist until a few years ago

1 ( +1 / -0 )

*Another theory states that Yasuke was a Habshi from Ethiopia. Thomas Lockley argued that this theory is most convincing. Like Yasuke, Habshi were called "Cafre" by Portuguese: well‐built and skilled soldiers unlike other east Africans who suffered from famine.[9] According to this theory his original name might be the Ethiopian Yisake or Portuguese Isaque, derived from Isaac.[10]Yasufe was also used as a surname in Ethiopia.[11]

and then 'possibly' from Ethiopia... and who is the artist of that painting on wiki

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Sorry but to prove anything, where is his tombstone? surely any samurai would have a large tomb somewhere..

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If he was 'stripped of his title and turned over to a Christian camp' as JJ Jetplane suggests, the terms of his release would have been explicit, with nowhere for him to hide, and his death would not have been marked with any obvious tombstone. More likely an unmarked stone, especially with more and stronger edicts against Christianity coming into force.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The truth be told, blacks ( Africans) were all over Asia a long time ago ( Maoris, Aboriginals, Papua, Phillipines , Japan, China e.t.c) . Then there are those who came with the Portuguese. There are temples in Japan where you can actually see illustrations and having lived in Japan myself, I met quite a few kinky ( Afro) haired Japanese. One prominent former Japanese boxer is a good example. Dr. Rashidi Runoko has great insights into these Africans in Asia and does speak of Yasuke.

My problem is that the establishment here HID this part of what they now want to make prominent from their mainstream history ALL this time ! WHY ? and why this time ? After donkey years of treating Africans as their door mats, they are now trying to worm their way into being seen as " multi-cultural " ?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Yasuke could speak Japanese and the two men got on well. Yasuke entertained the warlord with tales from Africa and India. He thrilled Nobunaga with his feats of strength. And it is possible the two may have had a sexual relationship.

Yasuke was captured and probably sent back to Nagasaki to work with the Jesuit community.Evidence points to Yasuke working as a trade advisor to Japanese lords in southwestern Japan and possibly traveling to the Philippines and the Korean peninsula.

Alternatively, he could have been employed as a pirate, given his experience on the high seas and alleged physical strength.

Think with your brain. I don't waste my precious time for 80% fiction story as faked true story. The truth may be at 20%.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

My problem is that the establishment here HID this part of what they now want to make prominent from their mainstream history ALL this time ! WHY ? and why this time ?

One if here you mean JT, all this is , is an advertisement to the English speaking community of people who follow along here, to get more myth and legend mixed in with a spoonful of facts, about one part of the long history of Japan.

If you think the "establishment" means Japan as a country, I would really love for you to quit bogarting the spliff! (Yeah I'm old school)

You are more than welcome to keep your "problem" as it is not being made "mainstream" and it's far, far, far, from even coming close to anything even close to "prominent".

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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