Yasuke was taken from his home country of Ethopia and was sold into slavery.
He arrived in Japan in 1579 in the service of the Italian Jesuit Alessandro Valignano, who had been appointed the Visitor (inspector) of the Jesuit missions in the Indies. He accompanied Valignano when the latter came to the capital area in March 1581 and his appearance caused a lot of interest with the local people.
When Yasuke was presented to Nobunaga he suspected his skin to be have been coloured with black ink, Nobunaga had him strip from the waist up and made him scrub his skin. These events are recorded in a 1581 letter of the Jesuit Luís Fróis to Lourenço Mexia and in the 1582 Annual Report of the Jesuit Mission in Japan, also by Fróis. These were published in Cartas que os padres e irmãos da Companhia de Jesus escreverão dos reynos de Japão e China II, normally known simply as Cartas, in 1598. When he realized that his skin was not coloured and in fact black Nobunaga seems to have taken an interest in him. At some point, although when is not clear, Yasuke entered Nobunaga’s service.
Yasuke was taught Japanese, perhaps due to Nobunaga talking with him. He was perhaps the only non-Japanese retainer that Nobunaga had in his service, which could explain Nobungas interest in him.
In June 1582, Nobunaga was attacked and forced to commit seppuku in Honnō-ji in Kyoto by the army of Akechi Mitsuhide. Yasuke was there at the time and fought the Akechi forces. Immediately after Nobunaga’s death, Yasuke went to join Nobunaga’s heir Oda Nobutada who was trying to rally the Oda forces at Nijō Castle. Yasuke fought alongside the Nobutada forces but was eventually captured. When Yasuke was presented to Akechi he said that the black man was an animal as well as not Japanese and should thus not be killed but be taken to the nanban-dera or nanban-ji. There is no further written information about him after this.
It was soon after, that Yasuke met Katsumoto who had admired his skills and gave him a new opportunity. He took it without hesitation.
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