List of foreign-born samurai in Japan

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English William Adams was one of the first western samurai along with Dutch Jan Joosten van Lodensteijn

This is a list of foreign-born people who became samurai in Japan.


In this list, Japan means the Japanese archipelago. There are various theories as to the definition of samurai. This list includes the following people.

  • Foreign-born people who were "shibun" (ja:士分): soldiers who had the official status of samurai after the establishment of the Tokugawa Shogunate.[1][2][3]
  • Before the Edo period when classification of shibun had not been established, foreign-born soldiers who were given a territory or rice as salary by their lord as a shibun.
  • Foreign-born people who were granted the official post of samurai, for example Hatamoto and Koshō (ja:小姓,[4] page).

The following people are treated as "Other foreign-born people who were allowed to wear two swords"

The following people are treated as "people who could be foreign-born samurai".

  • "Foreign-born samurai" whose existence is uncertain.
  • Foreign-born people who served samurai, whose occupations were unclear.
  • Foreign-born people who were given a territory or rice as salary by lords, whose occupations were unclear.

This list excludes the following people.

  • Samurai of foreign ancestry born in Japan.
  • Foreign-born people who served samurai in other occupations, for example Confucianist or medical doctor.
  • Foreign-born people who served samurai as oyatoi gaikokujin, not Japanese-style soldiers.

Foreign-born samurai[edit]

Gyokusen-en, Japanese garden made by Korean samurai Wakita Naokata and his descendants.
Birthplace Original name Occupation before arrival in Japan Year of arrival in Japan Name in Japan Lord Occupation and achievements in Japan
Flag of Portugal (1578).svg Portuguese Mozambique?[6]
(now  Mozambique)
unknown Valet of Alessandro Valignano, Italian Jesuit missionary[7] 1579 Yasuke
Oda Nobunaga[8]
Oda Nobutada[8]
Retainer who was given salary by Nobunaga.[9] Weapon bearer of Nobunaga.[10] He served in the Honnō-ji incident.[8]
Coat of Arms of Joseon Korea.png Kilju, Joseon[11]
(now  North Korea)
(Kanji:李達越)[12] Castaway from Joseon[12][11] 1587[11] Kawasaki Seizō[12] Nabeshima Naoshige[12][11] His courtesy name was 宗歓. During the Imjin war, he was active from behind as a Japanese spy.[12]As reward, he was allowed to wear swords and given saraly by Naoshige.[13]Later he became a merchant, and built a town in Saga now called Toujinchō.[11]
Coat of Arms of Joseon Korea.png Hanseong, Joseon[14]
(now  South Korea)
Kim Yeo-cheol
(Kanji: 金如鉄)[15]
Son of 金時省, civil officer of Joseon[15] 1592[14] Wakita Naokata
Maeda Toshinaga
Maeda Toshitsune[14]
Maeda Mitsutaka
Maeda Tsunanori
1000 koku. On-Koshōgashira (Head of pages). Kanazawa machi-bugyō (Commissioner of Kanazawa city). He served in the Summer Campaign of Siege of Osaka.[14]
Coat of Arms of Joseon Korea.png Gyeongju, Joseon[16]
(now  South Korea)
Park Won-hyuk
Son of lord of small castle in Gyeonju[16] 1594[17] Akizuki Tanenobu
Chōsokabe Motochika
Chōsokabe Morichika[16]
Page of Chōsokabe. After Chōsokabe clan had been removed from Tosa province, he became a renowned Korean style tofu merchant.[16]
Coat of Arms of Joseon Korea.png Busan, Joseon[19]
(now  South Korea)
Kim Hae
Potter[19] 1595[19] Hoshiyama Chūji
Shimazu Yoshihiro[19] 30 koku. Founder of Satsuma ware. He was given two swords.[19][20][21]
Coat of Arms of Joseon Korea.png Joseon[22] unknown[22] Son of 曽清官, commanding officer of Joseon[22] 1598[22] Soga Seikan
Nakagawa Hidenari[22] 150 koku.Page of Hidenari. [22]
Coat of Arms of Joseon Korea.png Joseon[23] (Kanji:李聖賢)[23] Son of Yi Bok-nam, commander of Joseon[23] 1598[23] Rinoie Motohiro
Mōri Terumoto
Mōri Hidenari[23]
100 koku. Adviser of Mori clan. He was the swordsman who received menkyo of Yagyū Shinkage-ryū.[23]
Bandera cruz de Borgoña 2.svg Delft, Habsburg Netherlands
(now  Netherlands)
Jan Joosten van Lodensteijn Mate of De Liefde, Dutch ship[24] 1600[25] Yayōsu
Tokugawa Ieyasu
Tokugawa Hidetada
Hatamoto.[24][26] Under the Tokugawa Shogunate, he chartered several Red Seal Ships.
Flag of England.svg Gillingham, Kent, Kingdom of England William Adams Mate of De Liefde, Dutch ship[24] 1600[25] Miura Anjin (the pilot of Miura)
Tokugawa Ieyasu
Tokugawa Hidetada
Hatamoto.[24][27]250 koku. Interpreter and shipwright of Tokugawa Shogunate. (Adams was the model for the character John Blackthorne in James Clavell's novel Shōgun (1975).)
Coat of Arms of Joseon Korea.png Joseon[28][29] unknown unknown unknown Yagyū Shume
Yagyū Munenori[28]
Yagyū "Jūbei" Mitsuyoshi
Yagyū Munefuyu
Retainer of Yagyū clan.200 koku?[29] He married the sister of Yagyū "Hyōgonosuke" Toshitoshi.[23]
(now  China)[30][31]
(Kanji:藍会栄)[31] The member of the inner circle of Ming dynasty [31] After 1624[31] Kawanami Genbei (First)
Shimazu Iehisa[31] 300 koku. He was political refugee from Ming. Tōtsūji (Chinese translator) of Satsuma domain. He was given right to wear swords.[31]

Other foreign-born people who were allowed to wear two swords[edit]

Strictly, it can not be affirmed that they were official samurai even though they looks compatible with the modern concept of "samurai". All men from samurai class were permitted to wear daishō. However, people from other social classes were sometimes allowed to wear swords. For example, Hijikata Toshizō, the famous swordsman and vice-commander of Shinsengumi was born as a son of farmer. Even though he wore daishō and engaged in police activity, he couldn't gain the title of the official retainer of bakufu until 1867.

French-born Eugène Collache in Japanese attire, wearing two Japanese swords.
Birthplace Original name Occupation before arrival in Japan Year of arrival in Japan Name in Japan Lord Occupation and achievements in Japan
Ming[32] unknown Chinese martial artist[32] Before 1635[32] Denrinbō Raikei
Marume Nagayoshi[a]
Sagara Yorifusa[b]
Sagara Yorihiro[c][32]
He was the disciple of renown swordmaster Marume Nagayoshi. Later he became yamabushi and established ninja corps called Ura-Taisha[32][33]
Flag of the Kingdom of Prussia (1803-1892).svg Kingdom of Prussia[34] John Henry Schnell[35] Secretary of the Prussian consul Max von Brandt[35] 1859[36] Hiramatsu Buhei
Matsudaira Katamori Military instructor of Aizu Domain and Shōnai Domain. He procured weapons to for Ōuetsu Reppan Dōmei.He served in Battle of Hokuetsu.[38]
Flag of France.svg Perpignan, French Kingdom Eugène Collache French Navy officer 1868? Korashi
Enomoto Takeaki He fought for Ezo Republic and served in Battle of Miyako Bay.[40]

People who could be foreign-born samurai[edit]

Foreign-born people who were given a territory.
  • Kawaminami Rishin (汾陽理心): Retainer of the Shimazu clan, who was given 597 koku. He was born as 郭国安 (Japanese pronunciation: Kaku Kokuan) in the Ming dynasty. He made a journey to Japan in 1559. Later he was scouted by Shimazu Yoshihisa, daimyō of Satsuma as retainer. During Imjin war, he went Joseon as the officer in charge of letters. He was said to hold secret communications with Ming at that time. Later, he served the Satsuma domain using his medical knowledge.[41] In 1598, Rishin appeared in Chinese document as Japanese general.[42]
  • Kyo Gigo (許儀後): Physician to Shimazu Yoshihisa, who was given 410 koku.[43] He was the bureaucrat of Jiangxi of the Ming dynasty. In 1571, he was captured by wokou, and brought to Satsuma Province. He was scouted by Yoshihisa there. He went to Joseon with him during the Imijin war.[44]
Foreign-born people who were given a salary.
  • Coat of Arms of Joseon Korea.pngBoku Hōnin (朴好仁): Father of Akizuki Tanenobu. His original name was Park Ho-in. After he left Kōchi, he served Katō Yoshiaki, and then Fukushima Masanori. He was given salary by them. Later, he returned to Joseon.[16]
  • Bandiera del Regno di Sicilia 4.svgOkamoto San'emon (岡本三右衛門): He was born as Giuseppe Chiara in Kingdom of Sicily in 1602. He was originally a Jesuit who entered Japan at a time when Christianity was strictly forbidden. He was also tortured and eventually became an apostate. He later married a Japanese woman, taking the name and the status of her late husband. He was given salary by the Shogunate.[45][46]
Other possible foreign-born samurai
  • Flag of the Papal States (1825-1870).svgYamashina Katsunari (山科勝成): He was born in Italy and served Gamō Ujisato as retainer. It is said that the Gamō clan sent an embassy to Rome with the help of Katsunari. But his existence is highly questioned.[47]
  • Coat of Arms of Joseon Korea.pngRyō Murin (梁夢麟): He was born in Joseon. He seemed to be a Chabōzu (choreman) of Wakisaka Yasuharu.[48] In 1617, he returned to Joseon.[49]
  • Coat of Arms of Joseon Korea.pngInpuku (允福): Son of 慎忠義(Japanese pronunciation:Shin Chūgi), military officer of Joseon. He was a eunuch. Captured during the Imjin war, he won the favor of Tokugawa Ieyasu. He seemed to be the page of Ieyasu.[50]
  • Coat of Arms of Joseon Korea.pngOkada Hanzaemon (岡田半左エ門): During the Imjin war, he was brought up by Mōri Motomasa, and became a close adviser of his. But later he was expelled because of a fight and injury.[51]
  • Coat of Arms of Joseon Korea.pngunknown: Mori Shimanokami, navy officer of Hachisuka clan had a retainer born in Joseon.[52]
  • Watanabe Kotonori (渡辺士式): Born as 孟二寛 (Japanese pronunciation: Mō Jikan) in the Ming Dynasty, he served the Asano clan using his medical knowledge.[53] His grandson, Takebayasi Takashige was a member of the Forty-seven Ronin.

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]


  1. ^ as desciple
  2. ^ as ninja
  3. ^ as ninja


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  2. ^ "コトバンク 「徒士(かち)」". Retrieved 2016-01-05.
  3. ^ 三田村鳶魚 (1997). "『武家の生活』、三田村鳶魚、中央公論社、1997年より「足軽」". Retrieved 2016-01-05.
  4. ^ "コトバンク「小姓(こしょう)」". Retrieved 2016-01-05.
  5. ^ "コトバンク「苗字帯刀(みょうじたいとう)」". Retrieved 2016-01-05.
  6. ^ Solier, François (1627). Histoire Ecclesiastique Des Isles Et Royaumes Du Japon, Volume 1. p. 444. Retrieved 2013-06-22.
  7. ^ "ジアン・クラッセ、「日本西教史」上巻、太陽堂書店、1925年、384頁". Retrieved 2015-08-04.
  8. ^ a b c d 村上直次郎; 柳谷武夫(訳) (2002), イエズス会日本年報 上, 新異国叢書, 雄松堂出版, ISBN 978-4841910001
  9. ^ "松平家忠、「家忠日記」、文科大学史誌叢書第2巻、吉川半七、1897年、54頁". Retrieved 2015-08-04.
  10. ^ 『織田信長という歴史 『信長記』の彼方へ』、勉誠出版、2009年、311-312頁。
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  12. ^ a b c d e 内藤 雋輔 (1976). 文禄・慶長役における被虜人の研究. 東京大学出版会.,734-735頁
  13. ^ 『唐人町の由来』碑
  14. ^ a b c d e "笠井純一、「家伝 金(脇田)如鉄自伝[翻刻解説]」、金沢大学教養部論集. 人文科学篇、1990年、一頁" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-08-04.
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  18. ^ He was also known as Akizuki Nagazaemon(秋月長左衛門). Do not confuse with 3rd daimyo of Takanabe Domain of same name
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  23. ^ a b c d e f g h 毛利 吉元; 山口県文書館 (1987). 萩藩閥閲録第四巻. 山口県文書館. pp. 143–142.
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  26. ^ Corr, Adams the Pilot: The Life and Times of Captain William Adams. Pp.158
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  29. ^ a b 根岸 鎮衛, 耳嚢 巻一
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