and since all I do is eat hot chip and lie walk on the beach and sit on my couch, I was thinking about watching some old movies with Spanky. We talked about it at the end of the year, but between watching Girlfriends and re-watching Grey’s, we’ve only watched a few older movies (Christmas ones: It’s a Wonderful Life and White Christmas. I feel like most of the old Christmas movies are white, but I digress.). And because I like to keep it funky, I made her and her cousin watch Player’s Club. Also! Since this weekend is going to look just like the other ones, I was thinking of other movies that we could watch, and after this fact is done Imma look to see if The Last Dragon is playing anywhere. Because I love it. I mean yes. We could watch Mahogany, or Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? And we will, eventually. But who doesn’t wanna watch a black karate movie that stars Vanity of Vanity 6? Nobody. Or at least not me. And, I say this a lot about a lot of things, SHARING IS CARING. Nothing says I LOVE YOU more than me sharing some of my ridiculous with you. YOU’RE WELCOME IN ADVANCE.

Anyway. If you’re trying to figure out WTF this has to do with a BHFOTD, lemme tell you: While I was sitting here thinking of a way to torture share something with my millennial, I thought to myself WHY does this picture of Sho’ Nuff (The Shogun of Harlem) look…familiar? And the answer is because today’s BHFOTD is about Yasuke, the first black samurai who I’m fairly certain does not PURPOSEFULLY look like Sho’Nuff. I’m sure it’s just because they’re both black, but let’s go with it for the sake of continuity, hm?

*cracks knuckles and opens wikipedia*

Yasuke was a samurai of African origin who served as a retainer under the Sengoku period Japanese daimyō Oda Nobunaga. In 1579 Yasuke arrived in Japan in the service of Italian Jesuit missionary Alessandro Valignano, Visitor of Missions in the Indies, in India. Yasuke is thought by some to have been the first African that Nobunaga had ever seen and he was one of the many Africans to have come with the Portuguese to Japan during the Nanban trade. When Yasuke was presented to Oda Nobunaga, the Japanese Daimyō thought that his skin must have been coloured with black ink. When Nobunaga realized that the African’s skin was indeed black, he took an interest in him.

The Lord Nobunaga Chronicle describes the meeting thus: “On the 23rd of the 2nd month [23 March 1581], a black page came from the Christian countries. The man was healthy with a good demeanor and Nobunaga praised Yasuke’s strength. Nobunaga’s nephew gave him a sum of money at this first meeting. On 14 May, Yasuke departed for Echizen Province with Fróis and the other Christians. During this trip, they met local warlords such as Shibata Katsutoyo, Hashiba Hidekatsu, and Shibata Katsuie. They returned to Kyoto on 30 May. At some point, although when is not clear, Yasuke entered Nobunaga’s service.

It’s likely that Yasuke could speak or was taught Japanese, perhaps due to Valignano’s efforts to ensure his missionaries adapted well to the local culture. Nobunaga enjoyed talking with him (there is no indication that Nobunaga spoke Portuguese). He was perhaps the only non-Japanese retainer that Nobunaga had in his service. Yasuke was mentioned in the archives of the Maeda clan. According to this, the black man named Yasuke  was given his own residence and a short, ceremonial katana by Nobunaga. Nobunaga also assigned him the duty of weapon bearer.

In June 1582, Nobunaga was attacked and forced to commit seppuku in Honnō-ji in Kyoto by the army of Akechi Mitsuhide. 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, the warlord allegedly said that the black man was an animal as well as not Japanese and should thus not be killed, but taken to the Christian church in Kyoto. There is some doubt regarding the credibility of this fate/ It’s possible they’re trying to not like terrible people but also calling a black man an animal is pretty plausible and definitely happens in the year two thousand and twenty-one so who knows.

There is no further written information about him after this.

There’s also no confirmed portraits of Yasuke drawn by a contemporary, HOWEVER, there’s representation in other media:

  • A book written in 1968 called Kurosuke.
  • Japanese period dramas (and they called J-dramas?), and manga, including a manga called The Man Who Killed Nobunaga
  • Video games produced in 2017 & 2020 featuring a portrayal of Yasuke
  • And an anime coming out this year called Yasuke
  • There was GOING to be a LIVE action film with Chadwick Boseman portraying Yasuke, but the chance for that has expired. (No? Too soon?)

*closes tab*

And there you have it! Today’s BHFOTD! And also because I mentioned it here’s a side by side. Like, they only have serious photos of the fake Yasuke, but maybe if he let his hair down and smiled more? No?