He Was an Enslaved African Soldier Given Into the Care of an Italian Missionary
The origins of Yasuke are shrouded in mystery, but historians believe the African soldier was born in 1555 in what was then Portuguese Mozambique. He was reportedly sold into slavery following the fall of Abysinnian Bengal, an African kingdom ruled by Ethiopians. Yasuke soon found himself in the care of Italian Jesuit missionary Alessandro Valignano, who asked that the Black man accompany him on a mission trip to Japan.
His Arrival In Japan Caused Quite the Commotion
When Yasuke and Alessandro arrived in Kyoto, Japan, in 1579, the sight of the 6-foot-2 Black man caused a frenzy in the marketplace. The loud commotion caught the attention of Japanese warlord Oda Nobunaga, who was impressed with Yasuke’s towering stature. The daimyo was all too fascinated with the African man’s skin, characterizing him as “handsome” and someone who possessed “the strength of 10 men,” as recorded in the “Lord Nobunaga Chronicle,” the principle Japanese source that describes Yasuke.
Because he was a foot taller than most Japanese men at the time, Yasuke was a sight to see. Nobunaga soon made him his personal bodyguard.