Book - 1995
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Musashi Miyamoto fights in 1600 for the losing side of the battle at Sekigahara when the Tokugawa Shogunate begins its reign.
This epic recounts the life and times of medieval Japan's greatest swordsman--a man who began life as an over-eager lout but turned himself into a master of his chosen weapon. But his life was spent not only in training to perfect the art of killing, but also in a quest to conquer himself. Unable to settle down, Musashi embarks on the life of a ronin (masterless samurai) as he wends his way through the feudal world of medieval Japan in his search for perfection. In the process he finds a young woman who loves him and many enemies who seek his destruction, including the most feared swordsman of all. The book teems with memorable characters, many of them historical. Interweaving themes of unrequited love, misguided revenge, filial piety and dedication to the Way of the Samurai, it depicts vividly a world Westerners know only vaguely.
Publisher: Tokyo ; New York : Kodansha International, 1995, ©1981
Edition: New ed
ISBN: 9781568364278
Characteristics: xiii, 970 pages ; 22 cm
Additional Contributors: Terry, Charles S.


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Aug 17, 2015

Musashi the poet:
When I am busy, the mountain looks at me. When I am at leisure, I look at the mountain. Though it seems the same, it is not the same, For busyness is inferior to leisure.
Under Takuan's poem, Yoshino wrote:
Even as they bloom A breath of sadness hangs Over the flowers. Do they think of the future, When their petals will be gone?

Otsū's endless love:
With great strength and perfect calm, she went on. "If in your heart you'll consider me to be your bride, that's enough, a joy and a blessing that only I, of all the women in the world, possess. You said you didn't want to make me unhappy. I can assure you I won't die because of unhappiness. There are people who seem to consider me unfortunate, yet I don't feel that way in the least. I look forward with pleasure to the day when I die. It will be like a glorious morning when the birds are singing. I'll go as happily as I would to my wedding."

Aug 17, 2015

The moon shining on -- The waters not present --- In an undug well --- Yields forth a man --- With neither shadow nor form.
You'll find, my friend, that in the gutters of this floating world, much of the trash consists of fallen flowers.
Love was like a toothache. When Otsū was busy, it did not bother her, but when the remembrance struck her, she was seized by the urge to go out on the highways again, to search for him, to find him, to place her head on his chest and shed tears of happiness.
From his limited perspective of the world, it seemed that whatever people did they soon came to regret. Men, for example, took wives with the intention of living out their lives with them but often changed their minds later. One could readily forgive women for their afterthoughts, but then women rarely voiced their complaints, whereas men frequently did so. How many times had he heard men disparage their wives as if they were old discarded sandals?

Aug 17, 2015

Fate of Otsu:
He stared at the ground, seemingly composing his thoughts. Then he began. "Otsū, I'd really hoped that you, of all people, would be spared the evils and duplicities of this world. That your sweet, innocent self would go through all the stages of life unsullied and unharmed. But it looks like the rough winds of fate have begun to buffet you, as they buffet everyone else."

First lesson of Musashi:
"That's not the point, you imbecile! The trouble with you is that you don't even know how to think. You seem to be under the misconception that if you perform one brave deed, that alone makes you a samurai. Well, it doesn't! You let that one act of loyalty convince you of your righteousness. The more convinced you became, the more harm you caused yourself and everyone else. And now where are you? Caught in a trap you set for yourself, that's where!"

Aug 17, 2015

A ghoulish time:
During the most turbulent times, even the ordinary farmer and woodcutter had learned to profit from human misery and bloodshed. The fighting on the outskirts of their village might keep these simple souls from working, but they had ingeniously adapted to the situation and discovered how to pick over the remains of human life like vultures.

Sharp tongue of the monk:
"This temple is poor, so leave as much as you can. Especially you rich folks—I know who you are; you're wearing those fine silks and embroidered obis. You have a lot of money. You must have a lot of troubles too. If you leave a hundredweight of cash for your tea, your worries will be a hundredweight lighter."


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Aug 17, 2015

Absolutely a delightful romantic epic that is impossible to put down. Best reviewed by William Scott Wilson in his book "The Lone Samurai": Yoshikawa’s Musashi attempts to deal with these three obstructions throughout the book ---
Musashi’s boyhood friend, Hon’iden Matahachi, is the archetypical man who passively waits for good fortune to find him. Lazy, impulsive, and without self-discipline, he is the
perfect foil for Musashi, and he inevitably ends up disappointed by the poor results of his schemes for quick gain. Along with disappointment, his most outstanding feature is self-pity. With envy, he watches Musashi’s character grow and is unable to understand why he himself slides continually downhill. Love, family, and children are symbolized by Otsu, the woman who follows Musashi throughout the twelve-year span of the novel. At first engaged to the feckless Matahachi, she falls in love with Musashi; and her determination to follow him is exceeded only by Musashi’s determination to follow the Way of the Sword. He is not immune to this temptation, however; a major theme of the story is the various ways he deals with his own desire for a normal life and the comforts and distractions it affords. The Three Obstructions in our lives, according to Buddhism, are Ignorance, Desire, and Hatred. If the first two of these might roughly be embodied in Matahatchi and Otsu, the third is manifested by an old lady whom Yoshikawa portrays as a figure much like the harpy of Greek epics. This is Osugi, the mother of Matahachi, who is so certain that Musashi was the cause of her son’s debasement that she will do anything to thwart or even kill him. Her hatred and desire for revenge are frightening, if sometimes comical, and her single-mindedness is on a par with that of Otsu.

Jul 23, 2015

Edwin O Reischauer has called this ultimate samurai book the Gone with the Wind of Japan. More than 120 million copies have been sold in Japan--enough for every man, woman, and child. This is an epic novel about men who really existed in the latter part of the 16th and early part of the 17th Century in Japan. The book, 960 pages of small print, chronicles the title character's adventures as he travels around Japan--mostly between Kyoto and Tokyo (Edo), from the time he and a childhood friend fought in the now famous Battle of Sekigahara to quite possibly the most famous martial arts man-to-man battle in Japanese history. The characters are many--it would have been helpful to have a list of them ala War and Peace, since some first appear early in the book, vanish, and then reappear hundreds of pages later, but the main characters are engaging and the author makes you care about them. Highly recommended. For more information, see


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Sep 23, 2015

A good summary of the book can be found in "The Lone Samurai, The Life of Miyamoto Musashi" by Wilson, William Scott, 1944-

If you enjoy the Musashi stories, don't miss the Musashi Trilogy films: 1954 Samurai I (a.k.a., The Legend of Musashi; Samurai Trilogy, part 1) (Miyamoto Musashi ; 宮本武蔵). 1955 Samurai II (a.k.a., The Duel at Ichijoji Temple; Samurai Trilogy, part 2); 続宮本武蔵 一乗寺決闘). 1956 Samurai III (a.k.a., Duel at Ganryu Island; Samurai Trilogy, part 3) (Ketto Ganryujima; 決闘巌流島).


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