Nobunaga Oda

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Yasuke African Samurai of the Japanese Warlord Nobunaga Oda.

“Japan is not a place one would usually associate with immigrants from Africa or the Caribbean. Yet in the late 16th century Japan’s most powerful warlord, Oda Nobunaga, had a African page named Yasuke it is belived that Yasuke was either a Makua originally from Mozambique or from somewhere in the Congo region. Yasuke was not only a cultural curiosity but also served as Nobunaga’s bodyguard and was granted the prestigious rank of Samurai.

Yasuke arrived in Japan in 1579 as the servant of the Italian Jesuit Alessandro Valignano, who had been appointed the Visitor (inspector) of the Jesuit missions in the Indies, i.e. S. and E. Asia, an extremely high position, so Yasuke must have been quite trustworthy. He accompanied Valignano when the latter came to the capital area in March 1581 and caused something of a sensation. In one event, several people were crushed to death while clamouring to get a look at him. Nobunaga heard about him and expressed a desire to see him. Suspecting the black color of his skin to be paint, Nobunaga had him strip from the waist up and made him scrub his skin.

 We do not know this Yasuke’s original Makua name but the Japanese called him Yasuke (彌介), the reason for this name is unknown as it does not have a clear meaning and that it is most likely a “Japanization” of his actual name. 

He was apparently 6ft 2in and would have towered over the Japanese of the day. Nobunaga first heard of Yasuke when the news reached him in 1581 of the great crush that had occurred when Valignano had brought him to Kyoto where his skin colour and height attracted a huge crowd. Nobunaga ordered the Jesuit to bring Yasuke to his court so that he could see this sensation in the flesh.

Upon seeing Yasuke, Nobunaga allegedly ordered him stripped to the waist and scrubbed believing that his skin was painted.  Japanese sources described Yasuke as “looking between the age of 24 or 25, black like an ox, healthy and good looking, and possessing the strength of 10 men. Nobunaga was further intrigued by the fact that Yasuke could speak Japanese (albeit not perfectly) and ordered Valignano to leave Yasuke in his care when the Jesuit prepared to leave again.

Yasuke became a permanent fixture in Nobunaga’s retinue, his size and strength acting as a deterrent to assassination not to mention a flavour of exoticism to accompany the warlord’s other Western possessions. Apparently Nobunaga became so fond of Yasuke that rumours abounded that the slave was going to be made a Daimyo (a Japanese land-owning lord). These rumours were proven wrong, however, Yasuke was given the honour of being made a member of the samurai class, a rare honour among foreigners. “ 

Read more here. 

You can read more about Yasuke here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yasuke

Important note: Obviously this is not a 16th century photo because there weren’t any cameras back then. The people in this photo were just stage actors who posed for this shot.

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Let us stop and look how beautiful the artwork in Pokemon Conquest is

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During “the Civil War Era” or “the Sengoku Era”,  there was a period when power was fragmented among numerous samurai. During this time three powerful warlords tried to unify the country.  Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu.

There is a poem known to Japanese school children that shows the different styles of the warlords and their characters. A parable was told that these three leaders were gathered in a garden, when a bird landed on a limb. A Zen Master then asked each of them what they would do if the bird doesn’t sing.

Oda Nobunaga - 1534-1582
Nobunaga was arguablly the most potent and the most fierce Samurai in the era. He was also known for his cruelty and often described as a demonic figure with no mercy.  Nobu would have thundered “Kill it!” or without a word cut it to pieces.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi - 1536-1598
Hideyoshi was the successor of Nobunaga. He finally unified Japan and had brought an end to “the Civil War Era.” Then he buried his rivals one by one, and he conquered all over Japan at last. Hideyoshi would have said “make it sing.”

Tokugawa Ieyasu - 1542-1616. \
Ieyasu was the successor of Hideyoshi, and the founder of Edo Shogunate. Presumably he is the most famous shogune in the history. Ieyasu was known as a patient, persevering man with an excellent talent for management.  Ieyasu would have told everyone there that “If a bird doesn’t sing, wait for it to sing.”