3 samurai who broke the mould

09 Nov 2018 in Discover Japan

Not all samurai were grizzled Japanese men. Discover 3 warriors unlike any others!


Yasuke: the first black samurai

In the late 16th century, an African man arrived in Japan as a slave to an Italian Jesuit. Within a few years, he was a samurai!


It’s thought that Kurusan Yasuke was from Mozambique. Unsurprisingly, his imposing physique and dark skin made an immediate impression on the Japanese. Before long, the feudal lord Oda Nobunaga had taken him on as a warrior.


Little is known of Yasuke’s final years, but his story is celebrated in the popular children’s fiction, Kuro-suke.

Tomoe Gozen: Japan’s most famous female warrior

A heroine of folklore and popular stories, Tomoe Gozen was a 12th-century onna-bugeisha, often dubbed “female samurai”. She is believed to have fought in the 5-year Genpei War and was reputed a fierce warrior, excellent archer and skilled rider.


Tomoe continues to inspire today with recent reincarnations in manga, novels and video games.

William Adams: a British samurai

Best known as “Anjin”, meaning pilot in Japanese, William Adams was a British navigation officer who settled in Japan after his ship was hit by storms in 1600.



He became a close advisor to the shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa, eventually becoming one of the very first Western samurai.

Adams’s story is celebrated at Hoshino Resorts KAI Anjin in the town of Ito, where he oversaw the construction of the first Western-style sailing vessel in Japan.

Hoshino Resorts KAI Anjin:





Photo credits:


Yasuke, el esclavo africano que llegó a ser samurái



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