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The remarkable life of history’s first foreign-born samurai, and his astonishing journey from Northeast Africa to the heights of Japanese society.

The man who came to be known as Yasuke arrived in Japan in the 16th century, an indentured mercenary arriving upon one of the Portuguese ships carrying a new language, a new religion and an introduction to the slave trade. Curiously tall, bald, massively built and black skinned, he was known as a steadfast bodyguard of immense strength and stature, and swiftly captured the interest, and thence the trust, of the most powerful family in all of Japan. Two years later, he vanished.

Yasuke is the story of a legend that still captures the imagination of people across the world. It brings to life a little known side of Japan – a gripping narrative about an extraordinary figure in a fascinating time and place.


Yasuke is so breathtaking and revelatory that one would be believe the story to be fiction if it weren't true! The in-depth research into this historical re-telling is vast, comprehensive and enlightening. The narrative style is as razor-sharp and captivating as a katana's blade, drawing in the reader and giving them a 'first-hand' account of [an] extraordinary life
Chris Bradford, author of the Young Samurai series
A gripping tale of politics, war and religion that reads like an adventure story
Dave Rear, author of A Less Boring History of the World
Lockley and Girard bring [Yasuke] and his world to life with incredible research and style. Yasuke may have lived in the 1500s, but he is a hero for our modern world
Bret Witter, New York Times bestselling co-author of The Monuments Men
Yasuke gripped me from the opening sentence - a unique story of a unique man, and yet someone with whom we can all identify
Jack Weatherford, author of Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World
[An] excellent work of Japanese history
Eminently readable . . . The solid scholarship on and imaginative treatment of Yasuke's life make this both a worthwhile and entertaining work
Publishers Weekly
This book is not only the best account in English of Yasuke, the famous African samurai. It's also a delightful introduction to the vibrant and multicultural world of Asian maritime history. Written novelistically, with a light scholarly touch . . . Exciting and informative!
Tonio Andrade, author of The Gunpowder Age
A rich portrait of a brutal age
Kirkus Reviews