Dubbed the lone swordsman, Miyamoto Musashi has almost become the most famous figure in Japanese popular culture.
For those who love anime manga, the name Miyamoto Musashi must not be too strange. He is known as the legendary swordsman of Japan with a series of achievements that have never been defeated. Miyamoto Musashi has become a very influential figure in modern popular culture when constantly being mentioned in novels, manga, anime, plays, movies…
From a rebellious child to a lone wanderer
Miyamoto Musashi was born into a family with a tradition of swordsmanship in Miyamoto Village, Yoshino District, Harima Prefecture, in the Honshu region of western Japan. Musashi’s father is Shinmen Munisai, a kendo master and martial artist.
Musashi suffered from eczema as a child, and besides, he was also very rebellious. His ugly appearance due to eczema combined with his hyperactive temperament made him shunned by the villagers. After Musashi’s parents divorced, he lived with his biological father and stepmother but did not get along. Musashi had been living with his uncle Dorinbo, a monk at the Shoreian temple since he was 7 years old.
From the age of 13, Musashi showed a talent for swordsmanship. He began his undefeated streak throughout his life by defeating the samurai Arima Kihei in a duel with a wooden sword. At the age of 16, Musashi accepted the invitation to participate in a life-and-death battle with the swordsman Tadashima Akiyama and won thanks to his natural talent.
During the war between the eastern side of the Tokugawa shogunate general Tokugawa Ieyasu and the western faction of Toyotomi Hideyori – the son of warlord Hideyoshi, who unified all of Japan, Musashi served in the Hideyori army. Unfortunately, however, the Hideyori family lost the Battle of Sekigahara and the new dynasty fell to the Tokugawa shogunate. Musashi fortunately survived the battle, but turned into a ronin – a master swordsman. He had to run away constantly and change his name to avoid being hunted. During this time, Musashi became more mature, hiding in the island of Kyushu to practice kendo.
Musashi’s unbeaten streak
In adulthood, Musashi abandoned the steel sword and only used the wooden sword so as not to damage the opponent after each mortal battle. After returning to the world of swordsmen, Musashi received many challenges. A typical example can be mentioned is a challenge from the lord Matsudaia Katsukata, Yoshioka Seijuro – the eldest son of the Yoshioka family, who after losing had to shave his head and ordination and ceded the position of head of the sect to his younger brother, Yoshioka Denshichiro – Senjuro’s younger brother, who also challenged Musashi to a life-and-death duel in Kyoto, Denshichiro died when he was hit by a powerful attack.
The two defeats of the Yoshioka clan’s swordsmen led the clan to seek revenge against Musashi. They gathered their forces and found Musashi to challenge again in Kyoto. During this match, Musashi raided and defeated the then head of the Yoshioka clan, Matashichiro. Also in this battle, Musashi initiated the Niten Ichi-ryu dual-sword fighting style by using two swords at the same time.
Musashi’s fame reached its peak when he challenged the talented swordsman of the Hosokawa clan, Sasaki Kojiro. Kojiro is just as famous as Musashi, the special feature is that he has the secret technique Tsubame gaeshi, which is performed through the use of a long sword. Kojiro is known as the Devil of the West.
The duel between Musashi and Kojiro took place on the island of Funajima, a small island located between Honshu and Kyushu. Of course, Musashi still won even with a wooden sword hewn from an oar and with a single direct hit. After this event, Musashi was satisfied with both his fame and achievements and announced his retirement, focusing on teaching his disciples as well as starting to compile the famous book on swordsmanship, The Book of Five Wheels.
Musashi’s desire to reach the pinnacle of kendo as well as his martial spirit was soon passed down in Japanese folklore as a measure of a true samurai. The fact that Samurai culture has been handed down, preserved and even promoted in Japan and the world for centuries, has made Miyamoto Musashi’s name a symbol of popular culture in the land of the rising sun. When exploiting the topic of Japanese culture, modern art works (including comics, animations, novels and games) almost all take him as a model to build a samurai character. personality depth, the most famous can be mentioned characters inspired by Musashi such as Yasuo – Yone (LoL) or Zorro in One Piece.
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