Date: July 8, 2020
Time: 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
On June 29th, the Yokosuka Council on Asia-Pacific Studies (YCAPS) hosted its fourth YCAPS-JUMP webinar from 7 PM to 8:30 PM JST. YCAPS Vice President Caitlin Doornbos moderated a discussion with scholar and author, Thomas Lockley on Yasuke, the legendary African samurai. Mr. Lockley has written two books on Yasuke’s life, and his readers from across the world joined in for the webinar. 54 people tuned in live for the webinar, with people joining in from three continents and multiple countries. Yasuke was an African man who was brought to Japan as a servant to Jesuit missionaries, learned to speak Japanese, and was adored for his “ink black” skin reminiscent of depictions of the Buddha. Yasuke was also famous for his fierce warrior skills. He eventually became a guardian of Oda Nobunga and has been remembered over the years in literature, Japanese manga, video games, and theatrical productions in the years since his 16th century death.
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 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.
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. He has published books about Yasuke both in English and Japanese.
Thank you to everyone who participated. We greatly appreciate your patience and openness to online programming given these uncertain times. Please stay tuned to Twitter and Facebook for details on future events.
2020 The Japan U.S. Military Program (JUMP)
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