A photo of Yasuke, “Japan’s first black samurai”, causes a sensation

Yasuke is said to have been Japan's first black samurai.

A photo of Yasuke, “Japan’s first black samurai”, causes a sensation

Yasuke is said to have been Japan's first black samurai. An image of him in armor made the rounds on social media. However, several details prove that the cliché is completely false.

For several weeks, an image has been circulating on social networks. It is that of a black samurai alongside his family. It is presented as representing Yasuke, a servant of African origin who actually lived in the 16th century and arrived in Japan in 1579. He then became a weapon bearer and samurai in the service of Lord Oda Nobunaga.

The latter also mentioned Yasuke in his memoirs. He described the samurai as very tall, with impressive physical strength and significant intellectual dispositions. However, his end of his life remains a mystery. After the coup d'état which pushed his mentor to suicide, his fate remains unknown.

The image is at first glance very realistic: samurai armor, swords, traditional outfits, Japanese-style building in the background. She also has the appearance of a vintage photo with her lack of color and sepia tone. If the character's story is real, the photo is full of inconsistencies. Yasuke lived in the 16th century, but the first photos in history date back to the 1830s. No photos of the samurai could therefore be taken. Small details are also perplexing: the samurai sword seems to bend behind his wrist and the child's sleeve blends in with his mother's kimono.

Julien Peltier, author specializing in the figure of the samurai, also pointed out to AFP "that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to draw a weapon positioned on the back". This posture belongs to fiction. According to the expert, the second saber would, moreover, be on the wrong side and the blade would more closely resemble a Korean or Chinese weapon in shape. It is also not proven that Yasuke had a companion and descendants. However, according to Julien Peltier, it is not impossible that Oda Nobunaga could have married his vassal to a wife of his rank.

This photo was in fact taken by artificial intelligence. This is not the first time that the image of Yasuke's character has been reinterpreted. It was used in an animated series and an illustrated book. His face continues to arouse curiosity.