“Black Panther” star actor, Chadwick Boseman has been tapped to star as Yasuke, the first African samurai in Japanese history.
Speaking on the movie, Chadwick Boseman said, “The legend of Yasuke is one of history’s best-kept secrets, the only person of non-Asian origin to become a Samurai,” Boseman said, according to Deadline. “That’s not just an action movie, that’s a cultural event, an exchange, and I am excited to be part of it.” Although Yasuke was the first, there have been other non-Asian samurai since.
There was talk of the movie’s development back in 2017 when Mike De Luca and Stephen L’Heureux said they were co-producing a film based on Yasuke’s story. Doug Miro, co-creator of “Narcos,” will be writing the script, Deadline reported.
The True Story of Yasuke, a Legendary Black Warrior in Feudal Japan, by Thomas Lockley and Geoffrey Girard.
He was a Mozambique slave born around 1555. Yasuke was originally taken from his village near the Nile by slavers and eventually sent to India to serve the Portuguese. He ended up in Japan in 1579 as an indentured bodyguard and valet of powerful Portuguese Jesuit missionary Alessandro Valignano. The missionary, who sought to curry favour with the warlord Oda Nobunaga, gave the warlord Yasuke as “a weapon bearer and novelty.”
As the first black man to ever set foot on Japanese soil, his arrival created quite the stir. He is believed to have been taller than the regular Japanese with the strength of ten men. According to a 1581 letter written by Jesuit Luís Fróis to Lourenço Mexia, Yasuke was taken to Nobunaga who stripped and scrubbed his skin to in order to find out if his dark skin was coloured with black ink.
Nobunaga awarded Yasuke, a valiant and mighty fighter, the prestigious status of samurai. And Yasuke was revered by those around him.
“People in the streets did not only gape at him,” the biographers wrote. “They bowed, heads to the earth, as they addressed him.”
Sasuke went on to fight alongside the Nobunaga-led forces in a tribal battle. The fight called Battle of Tenmokuzan took place in 1582. During the battle, Nobunaga was attacked and forced to commit seppuku (Japanese ritual suicide).
His death led to Yasuke’s capture by the rival clan. His life was spared because they described him as an animal and not Japanese. There is no more account of the rest of Yasuke’s life and death.
There is also no account of his birth name. It is believed that it was the Japanese ruler who gave him the name “Yasuke”.
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