Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Musashi Readalong - Part 3

Readalong hosted by Jenners at Life...With Books.

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

This wonderful Japanese experience continues it's journey of action, adventure and many comings and goings and crossing of paths. Today I'm going to focus on the fairer sex and introduce you to the two young women who yearn to be the love in Mushashi's life.

Sumiyoshi is a seaside town and port not far from Osaka and it is here that several characters now find themselves. Matahachi , after several misadventures, has been reunited with his mother, Osugi, and Uncle Gon, and coerced into joining in the hunt for Musashi.
Also staying in Sumiyoshi are Oto and her daughter Akemi who are with Master Seijuro and several no-hoper students of the Yoshioka School.

Akemi - was sixteen when Mushashi & Matahachi stayed with her and her mother on the way home from the battle. Ever since then
"Her longing for Musashi had grown deeper and stronger. The thread of love had lengthened, and she had wound it up into a ball inside her breast. Through all the years, she had gone on spinning the thread from distant memories and bits of hearsay and winding it round the ball to make it larger and larger."
Akemi walks on the beach searching for the seashell she has read about in a poem carved on a stone.

Sumiyoshi Beach
" Had I but the time
I'd find it on the Sumiyoshi shore
They say it comes there.......
The shell that brings
Oblivion to love"

"When she was sad, Akemi often thought her problems would be solved if she could only forget the past and enjoy the present.......
........If there really were such a thing as a seashell of forgetfulness, she decided, , she wouldn't carry it herself, but instead, sneak it into Seijuro's sleeve. She sighed, imagining how lovely life would be if he would just forget all about her."

Seijuro wants Akemi and sadly, when she returns to the inn his patience runs out and he forces himself on her. The distraught Akemi runs from the inn and into the sea intent on taking her life. She is seen by Osugi and Uncle Gon.........he heroically attempts to save her but when they are both brought to shore Akemi lives but poor brave Uncle Gon is dead.

Akemi heads for Kyoto alone, is attacked by a dog and rescued by Kojiro.

Musashi.......he must be back in Kyoto a year after he left for two reasons - to meet Matahachi and to fight Seijuro - but as the year is drawing to a close he finds himself with a foot infected by a rusty nail. He travels to Yamada where from his window he sees the forest around the Ise Shrine and the mountains beyond and knows he must climb the mountain. He crosses the bridge and enters the precincts of the Inner Shrine.
Bridge to Ise Inner Shrine

 " He sensed a sacred presence, sensed it in the plants, in the trees, even in the voices of the birds...

...Through the bleak, ceaseless moaning of the great trees in the sacred forest Musashi's ear caught another sound. Somewhere, not far away flutes and reeds were giving voice to the strains of ancient music..."

The Ise Shrine is dedicated to the Goddess Amaterasu - the music  Musashi is hearing comes from the young women in service to the deity who live in the House of Virgins. And who should be there teaching young ladies the flute.....

Otsu........and Jotaro working in the gardens. They had hoped to spend the winter at the shrine but on the very day Musashi climbs the mountain and frees the poison from his foot Otsu is told she must leave as there is gossip about her suitability to be living in the House of Virgins.
Without meeting all three take the road to Kyoto. Otsu learns that Musashi is near...
" Now that she was about to see Musashi again, her spirit was dancing for joy. This elation , she knew, was that of anticipation; she could not predict whether Musashi would accept her devotion. "
Confrontations on Gojo Avenue Bridge

  • Osugi spots Musashi and attempts to fight him but he eludes her.
  • Akemi rushes into Musashi's arms and pours her sad story out but he is more interested in eyeballing Kojiro who he instinctively recognises as another fine swordsman.
  • Otsu comes to find Musashi but when she sees him with Akemi her jealousy and doubts hold her back and she makes her move too late.
  • Osugi fools Otsu into accompanying her to the inn where she is staying.
  • The announcement of the coming fight between Musashi and Seijuro has been posted on the bridge.
Now it's on to Book 4 !


  1. Oh ... I adore your write up! You have a gift for this. I love the quotes you picked out. I thought that Akemi quote was lovely, and I forgot to mark it or I would have used that quote in my post as well.

    I agree with you ... it is getting harder to write these posts but you're doing a brilliant job. And I almost used the same Gojo Avenue Bridge graphic but then opted for Musashi riding on a whale.

    I think big things are going to happen in Book 4.

  2. Thank you, Jenners.....coming from you I consider that high praise. :-)