Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Monday, July 24, 2006


The painting is a Cormorant, by Musashi. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to a more lengthy article at Wikipedia.

(This is from the official website of the town of Musashi)Miyamoto Musashi was born in the twelveth year of the rule of Tensho(1584), in Miyamoto, Ohara town. The grandfather, Hirata Shougen, is descended from the nobility of the old area, Harima. Musashi's father, Munisai, and Grandfather were both in the service of the Shinmen family, who controlled Mimasaka county from Mt.Takeyama castle, as protectors and trainers of the forces.

Musashi's mother, Omasa, soon died sfter giving birth to him. He was raised by his stepmother, Yoshiko, just like a real son. In the end though, when Musashi was very young, Musashi divorced Yoshiko, and she returned to her family home.        

The Shinmen family's forces lived through many hostilities, and it was said that Munisai was particularly strong, perhaps the storongest of all. Munisai was a extremely harsh father, raising Musashi very strictly.

Because of repeated friction with his father, he was very lonely and lived unhappily when he was young. However, as he grew up he was not defeated by his father's strictness and showed rare ability in the Martial Arts. Musashi decided to declare his own name, and taking the name from his birthplace, he introduced himself as Miyamoto Musashi.

Ohara(Miyamoto) has many historical places. Near the big maiden hair tree there is a carved memorial stone marking the place where Musashi was born. This stone was carved by Hosokawa Morishige, the feudal lord of Kumamoto. Behind the stone is a short biography describing evevts in Musashi's life from when he was a child. Near the stone is Musashi's birthplace. In 1942(Showa 17) The birthplace caught fire and burned down, but a large building nearby was spared damage. This building contained a large number of items pertaining to Musashi. When Musashi's elder sister(Ogin) married she moved into the Hirao household. This house is the oldest thatched roof house in Ohara. The garden of this house contains Tarayou and Utsugi trees, which are several hundred years old, and give a sense of old days.

Other sites include Aramaki Shrine, where Musashi observed drum movements that inspired him to create Niten Ichiryu, the two-sworded fighting style.(The shrine is now called Sanomo)

There is also the Musashi shrine which celebrates his mastery of the sword. Three places were built (Musashi Dojo, Gorinbo, Museum) by the townspeople to commerate his philosophy.

Miyamoto village remains in the image of Musashi, but it is an understated image.

When Musashi was younger many fighting styles and tactics prospered. At the age of 13 Musashi fought Arima Kihei, who used the Shintouryu style of sword fighting, and defeated him.

After this figtht Musashi left his hometown behind and departed for his travels. He travelled to many districts, improving his sword technique. When he was 29 he fought against Sasaki Kojiro at Ganryujima Island near Kyushu. He fought over sixty duels and he was never defeated. He usually risked his life without ever thinking of death. He was a master swordsmen as well as an artist.

In later years he made many sculptures and drawings that still remain. With the same spirit he used to master the secrets of the sword, becoming a swordmaster, he concentrated on making works of art and he made drawings of grass, trees, and birds (ROGANZU, KOUBAIHATOZU) that are very spiritual and first give off a feeling of warmth. From his lifetime works of art that reflected his quiet mind, we can continue to investigate his soul, heart, and mind and reach the depth of his soul as they are expressed in his works.

Musashi wandered about for a long time, and when he was over 50 years old he enjoyed the patronage of Hosokawa Tadatoshi, the feudal master of Kumamoto. As a guest swordsman he was able to live in peace during his time in Kumamoto. He was able to pass his name to posterity by shutting himself in a cave and writing his famous book of tactics, The book of the 5 rings, and people say the view from Reigandou cave reminds us of how Kamasaka pass looks.

Miyamoto Musashi died in Kumamoto, having never returned to his hometown of Musashi. His bones were brought back to Ohara to be interned in a tomb near his parents.

1 comment:

John Vesia said...

Miyamoto Musashi is generally regarded as one of the greatest martial artists of all time. He left quite a legacy with his writings. You provided me with some background on Musashi I didn't have before.