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Yasuke: African Samurai

Time and Location

Monday, January 8th, 2024 at 8pm (EST) (January 9th 10am JST)


Professor Thomas Lockley will tell the amazing story of Yasuke, a man from Africa who served and fought beside Japan’s infamous warlord Oda Nobunaga, in the 1580s. Yasuke, a mercenary in the service of Jesuit missionaries, met Nobunaga when his employer Alessandro Valignano was granted an audience. Nobunaga was more interested in Yasuke than the Italian priest, and immediately took the African warrior into his service.

Yasuke was gifted a house, servants, wealth and, crucially, a sword, which allows us to call him the first-ever foreign samurai. Over the next year he fought with Nobunaga on campaign, became a close personal confidant and even sumo wrestled with other Oda samurai. The dream ended abruptly in June 1582 when Nobunaga was assassinated. Yasuke stayed by his lord until the end, and is traditionally held to have rescued the severed head from capture. Afterward, the real Yasuke faded from history, but his legacy was revived as an anti-imperial icon in the 20th century and a media giant in the 21st.

Professor Thomas Lockley is an Associate Professor at Nihon University College of Law in Tokyo. He has researched and published on a number of historical figures, but is primarily known for his work on Yasuke, which has been featured in Japan on NHK, BS-TBS, TV Tokyo, and Fuji Television as well as receiving many notable reviews including in print media such as Bungeishunju, Shukan Bunshun, Shukan Asahi, and Mainichi Shinbun. The English language version of his book, co-authored with Geoffrey Girard, African Samurai, was released by Hanover Square Press (Harper Collins) in the USA in April 2019. It received wide coverage, including being named by Publishers Weekly as one of the most eagerly anticipated books of 2019, and has been featured by many global media outlets including Time Magazine, the BBC, CNN, Euro News, and the Washington Post.

Lockley’s latest book is ‘A Gentleman from Japan: The Untold Story of an Incredible Journey from Asia to Queen Elizabeth’s Court’, which is will be released in North America on May 21st 2024. It tells the astonishing story of the first Japanese man to set foot in the Americas and the British Isles.

Questions are encouraged during the live event. Register here: Meeting Registration – Zoom.

This event will be recorded and archived on YCAPS’ YouTube channel Yokosuka Council on Asia-Pacific Studies – YouTube.

For more information visit:
Yasuke: African Samurai
Series webpage: Know Japan – YCAPS

This event is supported through the Salary Assistance Grant for U.S.-Japan Community Grassroots Exchange Program.

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