(This is a two part series and you can read part one HERE)
Let’s get a couple o’ details cleared up here:
- Just because a guy was “Samurai” did not *at all* mean that he could slice and dice. Now, pre-Edo Period Samurai are known to have more per capita mission ready sword studs than their successors in the Edo Period. But The Edo Period–as we’ve learned–was an era of peace. And during this period *personal* combat began to take center stage.
- Samurai members were part of a caste; a social class. They were nobles, and that came with it’s own unique and fucky rights and responsibilities. For all intents and purposes, view them no differently than the nobility of any European power. Japan’s nobles just–as mentioned–came with some very specific baggage and badassery.
So, as we go over this list, keep in mind that how any of these men gained Samurai status was the same way any joker of the day would gain like status elsewhere: They got a title. No biggie.
Now history will want to start crawling in the weeds on the specific details and definitions regarding Samurai in general, and Outsiders as Samurai in particular. For example, a foreign military advisor in Japan might have been given title and name, but never ever wear the get-up we all identify as “Samurai.” Or, foreigners who held military posts, but were not combat-based (doctors), yet still gained titel and status. Pretty broad and lame spectrum. We’ll hit the high points.
Historically, the Portuguese had more contact with Japan than any other non-Asian power, but this list is varied as it also holds a Prussian. In terms of Asians, there are more Koreans on this list than any other nationality. It’s not like the Japanese lords were tossing titles at every round-eye that showed up, but they didn’t seem to be too caught up in shit like…them bein’ round-eyes.
Oda Nobunaga, from the last article on this, was a big fan of foreigners. Some called it a weakness. He was the lord of Yasuke.
The Maeda Clan–over on the West Side (my neck of the woods)–gave perhaps the largest title to a Korean by the name of Kim Yeocheol (Wakita Naokata, in Japanese). He held the position through four Maeda Daimyo (Lords), and saw ground time in one of the sieges of Osaka. This guy’s salary (paid in rice) was far greater than some other Daimyo…but the Maeda were known for being the [rice] richest of all the domains of ancient Japan.
Another Korean, entitled in the Tosa Domain in 1592 as a page, was thus entitled due to his extra special Korean style tofu. (I certainly ain’t gonna make any judgements on his sword skills, but “tofu guy” sounds like a REMF gig to me.)
The first Tokugawa Shogun, Ieyasu, commissioned two foreigners to bring his Navy up to [then] modern standards, Jan Joosten van Loodenstey, and William Adams. JJ and Bill worked for two ruling Shogun doing ship stuff. Bill went on to further work as a terp (InTERPreter) for the Shogun. The book/movie SHOGUN is based off our boy Bill.
Although these two guys worked for the most powerful kid on the playground, both of them combined made less than half what the Maeda dude above was making.
Everything above happened in a timeframe including the Warring States Period, and the subsequent Edo [Peace] Period. So…late 1500s to early 1600s. From here, these last two dudes hit in the Meiji Period (around the time CPT Algren would have been in Japan); 1860s.
John Henry Schnell (Fast Johnny) is the lone Prussian on this list. He was commissioned by the Aizu Clan as their Chief Military Instructor. In addition to instruction, he also functioned as the the Aizu weapons procurement guy. He was authorized to wear swords. And if he was working for the Aizu, I’d bet dollars to dogshit that they made damn sure he knew how to use them. Fast Johnny was around for the battle where our girl from a few articles back asked her sister to chop her head off. He hit the Aizu beat sometime prior to 1866.
One pretty weird piece of somewhat recent Japanese history that no one seems to know about, is that when Meiji ascended the throne and started shaking shit up, once the Shogunate had fallen and its remnants fled to what is now Hokkaido…they formed a Republic. The Republic of Ezo.
A French Navy Officer, Eugène Collache was entitled by Enomoto Takeaki to serve the Ezo Republic. Gène served in at least one naval engaement for Ezo, before it also fell to Meiji forces.
Our sole Chinese dude on this list is Watanabe Kotonori. He was born in Ming Dynasty China. He served the Asano Clan as a doctor. (Of obviously cooler note here, is that his grandson, Takebayashi Takeshige was one of the 47 Ronin.)
There are all kinds of theories and fringe history views about other Gaijin Samurai throughout Japan’s entire history. My point here was to illustrate that foreign Samurai did, in fact, exist. I’d say in relevant–if not significant–numbers. And a few of those ballers played a pivotal role in the future of Japan, as an Empire, and as a nation.
(Author’s note: In my personal experience, foreigners pick up trad Japanese Martial Arts appreciably faster than modern Japanese practitioners do. I’m not gonna postulate on why, but I don’t think any of my instructors would disagree.
I don’t think this has shit to do with Japanese Lords ever tossing status at a Round-eye. I think it has something to do with the almost total reversal of perception, posture, and combat readiness in the Modern Japanese Male. See…for whatever reason, a lot of *us* never ever forget that stuff. We’ve trained and done–and further trained and done–enough that the shit becomes second nature. And at some abstract point, you realize you don’t have a first nature anymore. Everything becomes angles, and timing and distance. I digress.)
We’ve covered the entire parade of minority sword slingers in Japan at this point. Dig deeper…it only gets cooler/weirder.
Image courtesy of lookandlearn.com
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