Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa - translated from the Japanese by Charles S. Terry.
With a foreword by Edwin O. Reischauer.
First published 1971.
The Classic samurai novel about the real exploits of the most famous swordsman.
The 970p volume is separated into seven different books and we're reading one for each 9 day period of the readalong.
Book 1 - Earth
Book 2 - Water
Book 3 - Fire
Book 4 - Wind
At 188p this was the longest book so far and ,of course, it had to come during the week of a long family holiday weekend followed by a short and busy week so I didn't actually finish it until yesterday. Some highlights......
Not one but three big fights
- The long-awaited bout between Seijuro and Musashi turned out to be a fizzer. While onlookers waited with great anticipation at the appointed venue the opponents met alone in a field. Musashi wasn't keen on fighting because he didn't consider Seijuro a worthy opponent - with one blow he smashed his shoulder and that was it. As he is being taken home Seijuro has Kojiro cut his useless arm off.
- Defending the honour of the Yoshioko School now falls on Seijuro's brother, Denshichiro, who spends most of his time overindulging in sake. Musashi has no problem killing him off .
- The head of the Yoshioka clan is now a 13-year-old boy too young to fight but the rest of the school gather a large force and challenge Musashi to a fight near the Ichijo-ji Temple. Musachi prepares himself to die but manages to outwit his opponents, kills the boy, and escapes.
The fight sequences never get repetitious or boring because there is a great deal of other things going on between them.
Art, Tea and a Courtesan
Following the bout with Seijuro, Musashi encounters Koetsu.........." ....a man of many talents. He painted, excelled as a ceramist and laquer-maker and was regarded as a connoisseur of art.'.......and eventually goes to stay with him and his mother. He begins to recognise that mastering any art holds the same essence as his struggle to perfect swordsmanship. There are some lovely passages describing the Tea Ceremony, paintings , poetry and crafts.
And a visit to the licensed quarters outside of which prostitution was illegal. It is here the men went for sexual enjoyment and romantic attachments with the beautiful and accomplished 'yujo' (play women) , the predecessors of the Geisha.
Musashi will, after his fight with Denshichiro. take refuge with and spend several days under the spell of Yoshino, the most famous of all the courtesans.
Otsu and Musashi are reunited
Otsu survives a murderous attack by Matahachi and Osugi but becomes ill, refusing to eat as she longs for Musashi. Jotaro convinces Musachi that he must see her. Finally! Musachi stops running away and not only tells Otsu how much he loves her but also reveals his greatest fear...........' that if he allowed himself to love her, his sword will be blunted.......he might lose the Way."
They part again but not for long for Musashi comes to realise that Otsu will never be a hindrance or try to hold him back. He sends her a letter
|Kara Bridge, Seta|
"At Hanada Bridge , it was you who waited. This time, let it be me. I've gone on ahead. I'll wait for you in Otsu, at Kara Bridge in the village of Seta."Musashi, Otsu and Jotaro are on their way to Edo.........on to Book 5.