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4.6 out of 5
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Musashi PDF, ePub eBook The classic samurai novel about the real exploits of the most famous swordsman. Musashi is a novel in the best tradition of Japanese story telling. It is a living story, subtle and imaginative, teeming with memorable characters, many of them historical. Interweaving themes of unrequited love, misguided revenge, filial piety and absolute dedication to the Way of the Samurai The classic samurai novel about the real exploits of the most famous swordsman. Musashi is a novel in the best tradition of Japanese story telling. It is a living story, subtle and imaginative, teeming with memorable characters, many of them historical. Interweaving themes of unrequited love, misguided revenge, filial piety and absolute dedication to the Way of the Samurai, it depicts vividly a world Westerners know only vaguely.

30 review for Musashi

  1. 5 out of 5

    Alger

    A breathtaking fictionalization of the life of one of the world's greatest warriors and renaissance men. Yoshikawa takes us on a mezmorizing voyage to a crossroads in Japanese history that changed all the rules and gave birth to a legend. The book opens in the year 1600 at the end of the infamous battle of Sekigahara, where the armies of east and western Japan met to decide who would govern: Toyotomi or Tokugawa. In the end to Tokugawa emerged victorious and the 150 year period of civil war cam A breathtaking fictionalization of the life of one of the world's greatest warriors and renaissance men. Yoshikawa takes us on a mezmorizing voyage to a crossroads in Japanese history that changed all the rules and gave birth to a legend. The book opens in the year 1600 at the end of the infamous battle of Sekigahara, where the armies of east and western Japan met to decide who would govern: Toyotomi or Tokugawa. In the end to Tokugawa emerged victorious and the 150 year period of civil war came to an end. The young son of a country samurai, Shinmen Takezo, goes to fight for the Toyotomi at Sekigahara and opens the book prostrate on the ground with two bullets in his thigh. He escapes the carnage of the battle to his home province and emerges from this ordeal not as the noble warrior he intended, but rather as a savage bandit. However, through the intervention of an old friend he is brought to justice and given a second chance and a new name. He is locked in a room of the Lord's castle for three years straight with only treatises on war, religion, and the classics of both Japan and China. From this incarceration he emerged a new man. Musashi is offered a position as reatiner to the Tokugawa governor, but instead decides to journey across Japan to hone his swordsmanship. To do this Musashi does more than practice drawing and swinging a sword. To achieve this he studies calligraphy, painting, sculprture, agriculture, and music, all in the the pursuit of perfection as a swordsman. The book takes us through the highlights of Musashi's career from Sekigahara , to his legendary feud with the Yoshioka sword school of Kyoto to it's culmination at the Duel of the Spreading Pine, finalizing with his infamous duel with the sword saint, Sasaki Kojiro, on Funajima Island. Musashi evolves constantly as a character, as does his rival, Kojiro. Both men are near facsimilies of each other, the difference of which makes the book and the unfolding of both the aforementioned's destinies so tantalizing.

  2. 4 out of 5

    aaron

    wow...that is the first thing that came to mind when i finished this book. it is easily the best historical fiction i have ever read. it is also the largest and most difficult book i have ever read. it is very japanese therefore some of the names and places tend to get mixed up in the nearly 1000 page epic. however...that is the only negative i have after reading this book. it will go down as one of my favorite reads of all time. it focuses on the life (very dramatized by the fantastic eiji yosh wow...that is the first thing that came to mind when i finished this book. it is easily the best historical fiction i have ever read. it is also the largest and most difficult book i have ever read. it is very japanese therefore some of the names and places tend to get mixed up in the nearly 1000 page epic. however...that is the only negative i have after reading this book. it will go down as one of my favorite reads of all time. it focuses on the life (very dramatized by the fantastic eiji yoshikawa-san) of musashi miyamoto, a wandering ronin (samurai) during the edo period (1600's) of feudal japan. this is the time when samurai were still prevalent by the advent of muskets was starting to take over. the story the yoshikawa-san unfurls is a fantastic epic of the nature of the way of the sword. it was of fairness, fierceness, and unyielding strength, and musashi was the height of that ideal. i highly recommend this to those (like me) who have a fascination with japanese history and the way of the samurai in general. also, there is a beautiful love story mixed in the pages (also highly dramatized but wonderful non-the-less) that makes one believe that true love may actually exist out there. if you read it...please give it the time because it is slow at points...but the end result is well worth the time and effort...and that is just how musashi would have it!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Olivia

    This is a quick read despite its length. The language is easy and there's plenty of action. Unfortunately I thought the characters are mostly two-dimensional and the plot repetitive. If you're interested in samurais and Japanese culture, give it a try.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jasper

    Perhaps my expectations were too high but I was a bit disappointed by this book. I am really interested in (traditional) Japanese culture and looked forward to reading Musashi. Although it is an entertaining read and I did gain some inspiration from it, I found it really missed the depth you'd expect from such a saga. Apart from Musashi himself, all the other characters in the book are fairly one-dimensional and as a consequence, the story does not really seem to progress or unravel after the fir Perhaps my expectations were too high but I was a bit disappointed by this book. I am really interested in (traditional) Japanese culture and looked forward to reading Musashi. Although it is an entertaining read and I did gain some inspiration from it, I found it really missed the depth you'd expect from such a saga. Apart from Musashi himself, all the other characters in the book are fairly one-dimensional and as a consequence, the story does not really seem to progress or unravel after the first few chapters (the meetings with Sasaki Kojirō are probably an exception to this). I realize the simplicity of the writing might fit the underlying Japanese values but I think it really did not reflect the complexities of the society and the characters it is trying to describe. It seems to me people in traditional Japan would have more on their mind than Miyamoto alone... But mostly, after a couple of hundred pages, I became annoyed with the fact that while walking all over Japan, Musashi seems to run into the exact same people everywhere.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Radiantflux

    26th book for 2019. This much loved epic, which originally appeared as a series of Japanese newspaper installments in the 1930s, chronicles the rise of one of Japan's greatest samurai and swordsmen, Miyamoto Musashi. Despite it's nearly 1000-page length, I found it a fun, quick(ish) read, which enriched my understanding of samurai warrior code and culture this grew out of. It has influenced numerous films and books relating to Japanese culture; even the final battle scene in Kill Bill 1 seems to 26th book for 2019. This much loved epic, which originally appeared as a series of Japanese newspaper installments in the 1930s, chronicles the rise of one of Japan's greatest samurai and swordsmen, Miyamoto Musashi. Despite it's nearly 1000-page length, I found it a fun, quick(ish) read, which enriched my understanding of samurai warrior code and culture this grew out of. It has influenced numerous films and books relating to Japanese culture; even the final battle scene in Kill Bill 1 seems to mashup homage to various incidents within the book. I look forward to reading Musashi's own A Book of Five Rings in due course. 4-stars.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Terry

    5 stars for sheer enjoyment and immersion in another time and culture. This book has easily landed on my favourites list. Despite its nearly thousand pages I was fully immersed in the story of Miyamoto Musashi and never felt like I was slogging through an enormous tome. To be fair the beginning is a little rough, but Eiji Yoshikawa does an excellent job at keeping things moving as we follow the famous ‘sword-saint’ of early Tokugawa-era Japan in his growth from a callow, bullying youth into a ma 5 stars for sheer enjoyment and immersion in another time and culture. This book has easily landed on my favourites list. Despite its nearly thousand pages I was fully immersed in the story of Miyamoto Musashi and never felt like I was slogging through an enormous tome. To be fair the beginning is a little rough, but Eiji Yoshikawa does an excellent job at keeping things moving as we follow the famous ‘sword-saint’ of early Tokugawa-era Japan in his growth from a callow, bullying youth into a man attempting to attain perfection in both body and spirit through the Way of the Sword. Yoshikawa paints on a broad canvas indeed, immersing the reader into the world of feudal Japan by showing us characters from all walks of life. We meet not only the daimyo and samurai who ruled in this world, but also the merchants, craftsmen, peasants, and priests all of whom gave to the era and country its unique character and flavour. While the story centers on the life and growth of its titular protagonist Miyamoto Musashi it is truly an epic saga, following the intertwined lives of many characters as they criss-cross Japan searching for (or trying to escape from) each other. Indeed there are so many coincidental meetings and near misses that it becomes something of a commonplace in the story. In some ways I was reminded of Dumas while reading this book: both authors first wrote in a serialized format that was later transferred to tomes of kitten-squishing size; many characters walk across the epic stage of history as plots and sub-plots unfold to follow the life of our protagonist; and despite its epic size and scope the prose is eminently readable and it’s definitely a real page-turner of romanticized historical fiction. The characters themselves are varied and colourful, their stories brought to vivid life from the irascible old dowager Osugi and her feckless son Matahatchi who seek Musashi's downfall, to the virginal Otsu and rambunctious Jotaro who become something of a family in their shared devotion to the vagabond swordsman. Then of course there is Musashi himself the man destined to become the great sword-saint and a man of intriguing complexity: at times seeming little more than a ragged vagabond with slight knowledge of the ways of the world, and at others like an insightful philosopher finding wisdom and perceiving connections where others see nothing at all. Of course one cannot fail to mention two of the most colourful characters in the story: Sasaki Kojiro the great swordsman whose cocksure confidence and wily intellect, along with his unequaled martial prowess, make him Musashi's only possible peer and a real threat for the sword-saint; and Takuan the Buddhist monk who at times can seem little more than a carefree and even clownish figure, while at others he exhibits the harsh and uncompromising nature of a man of great intellectual and moral acuity. Both prove to be interesting foils for Musashi and provide an intriguing study in similarity and contrasts to him. As he travels the roads and fields of Japan, Musashi takes advantage of every opportunity he can to learn. He is especially keen to gain from the experiences of those he meets who appear to have sounded the depth of a particular art, whether they be a craftsman obsessed with the creation of ceramics, a courtesan versed in the art of music, or an old woman expert in the niceties of the tea ceremony. All who have viewed some aspect of life and art with honesty and rigour can teach him something which he is able to apply to the of the way of the sword. It is this open-mindedness that allows Musashi to avoid being a slave to any one style of martial arts and only in his eagerness to learn from all of his experiences is he able to overcome his many opponents and develop from nameless vagabond to the 'sword-saint' of legend. While this is ostensibly the story of Musashi he is often absent from the pages for extended periods of time (seemingly deserting the reader as he does the other characters in the story). Luckily for us the characters that take over the narrative at these times are, as noted above, vivid and intriguing making the time spent with them never seem either wasteful or a slog. It is through these absences that we truly come to see the extent of the influence Musashi has on the other characters. Indeed the story is as much about the effect Musashi has on them, both by his presence and his absence (perhaps even moreso the latter), as it is about his life and deeds as such. In this I was reminded of the character of Able from Gene Wolfe's The Wizard Knight. Both men are searchers after truth and wisdom through the way of the warrior, whose actions have a profound effect on the people whose lives they touch. Musashi’s chi or spirit is so strong that not only is he able to master the sword and intimidate his opponents, but he is also able to instill in others a sense of devotion and awe. This makes Musashi sound like little more than a superhero, but this is far from the case. Yoshikawa still manages to make Musashi very human in his foibles and sense of inadequacy. Indeed, despite his prowess Musashi does not come across as very much like a typical action hero at all, that role is reserved for the suave and supremely confident Sasaki Kojiro. Musashi is more like a wide-eyed innocent looking for the path to perfection, but always certain it has escaped his grasp. The book thus treads a fine line between romanticizing the Samurai ideology in the figure of Musashi and portraying some of the harsh realities of the warrior culture that allowed bullies and braggarts to rule. Thus while we see one man’s attempt to achieve the ideal represented by bushido the story acknowledges the harsh truths that were all too often the reality. A really enjoyable book that is recommended to all lovers of historical fiction looking for an immersive and compelling experience of Tokugawa era Japan.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Malum

    A great novel that reads easier than its length or age might make you believe (The epic sword fights didn't hurt, either). The only negative that I found was that it has "Walter Scott" syndrome, where the main (and thus most interesting) character disappears for long stretches of time throughout.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    This is easily my favorite book. It's very long and translated from Japanese resulting in some rough spots, but nevertheless, I could not put this one down. I recommend this to anyone...well, anyone who loves sword fighting.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Hadrian

    A very weighty historical novel about samurai. I thought I'd like this a lot more than I did. I might try again later.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    I am a huge fan of the old Criterion Collection samurai movies and I loved Toshiro Mifune's portrayal of Musashi, so I thought I'd give this a read. I found it VERY slow at the beginning, but I powered through. It took me as long to read this as it did to read Don Quixote….coincidentally, Musashi lived at the same time as Cervantes, so it was interesting to compare what was going on in Japan in the time of Shakespeare and Cervantes. The story is epic in scope and follows Musashi Myamoto's life I am a huge fan of the old Criterion Collection samurai movies and I loved Toshiro Mifune's portrayal of Musashi, so I thought I'd give this a read. I found it VERY slow at the beginning, but I powered through. It took me as long to read this as it did to read Don Quixote….coincidentally, Musashi lived at the same time as Cervantes, so it was interesting to compare what was going on in Japan in the time of Shakespeare and Cervantes. The story is epic in scope and follows Musashi Myamoto's life from the time when he was a 17 year old punk to his final battle with Ganryu, which cemented his fame. It is a great introduction to Japanese history and has me itching to some follow up non-fiction reading on Japan. As far as rating it, I could go anywhere from a 3 to a 5. The story itself is captivating and completely hooks you after a while. The writing seemed immature and choppy at the beginning, but then got more and more sophisticated. I don't know if this is a translation thing, but it kind of works. It seems as if the author or translator used this as a story telling device, that is, as the main characters matured and became wiser, so did the text and the way it was written. Maybe I am imagining this?

  11. 5 out of 5

    Riannon

    I didn't like this book. It consisted of boring parts, punctuated by parts where the main character and maybe other characters, would go do something really stupid because of their bizarre moral codes or lack thereof. The book is old enough that the levels of sexism in it are absurd, and parts of it got me so annoyed that I was really distracted from the plot. I suppose it's interesting to get a perspective on a VERY different culture, but half the time I couldn't fathom any conceivable logical I didn't like this book. It consisted of boring parts, punctuated by parts where the main character and maybe other characters, would go do something really stupid because of their bizarre moral codes or lack thereof. The book is old enough that the levels of sexism in it are absurd, and parts of it got me so annoyed that I was really distracted from the plot. I suppose it's interesting to get a perspective on a VERY different culture, but half the time I couldn't fathom any conceivable logical or moral reason why the characters would be doing what they were doing, and this only got worse as the book went along. Also, the main character puts himself on too much of a pedestal for my liking (I know some people will want to deny that he does this, but he DOES). That, like pretty much everything else about Musashi (and here I mean both the character and the book itself) was annoying in the extreme.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    I read this novel about four years ago. At the time, the teacher for whom I was doing a book report on this novel, thought I was insane for picking such a long and complex novel. I vaguely remember someone else in my class reading The Bourne Supremacy. I would have this tied with I, Claudius for the best historical fiction I've yet to read. Telling the tale of Miyamoto Musashi, the sword-saint of Japan, it begins with his rural boyhood and ends with a final showdown between the great warrior and I read this novel about four years ago. At the time, the teacher for whom I was doing a book report on this novel, thought I was insane for picking such a long and complex novel. I vaguely remember someone else in my class reading The Bourne Supremacy. I would have this tied with I, Claudius for the best historical fiction I've yet to read. Telling the tale of Miyamoto Musashi, the sword-saint of Japan, it begins with his rural boyhood and ends with a final showdown between the great warrior and his rival. For such a revered man, the author depicts him as a clear anti-hero, especially during his early years before he officially rose from the peasant class to that of the Samurai. This novel really is a momentous epic, giving the feeling of actually living in Tokugawa-era Japan - something that comes across in a remarkably accessible way to this westerner.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Blake Brasher

    Mostly this book is like Pokemon. A young man wandered around the wilderness in his quest to be the greatest samurai/Pokemon master and runs into others who he does battle with to increase his power. He gains new techniques from kindly old masters and visits temples where he participates in more battles. The story does start to be more engaging in about the last third of the book. You can tell that it was originally released serially and should probably be consumed with the attitude one has towa Mostly this book is like Pokemon. A young man wandered around the wilderness in his quest to be the greatest samurai/Pokemon master and runs into others who he does battle with to increase his power. He gains new techniques from kindly old masters and visits temples where he participates in more battles. The story does start to be more engaging in about the last third of the book. You can tell that it was originally released serially and should probably be consumed with the attitude one has towards consuming a season of television.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy Preacher

    As a fan of epic fantasy, I was surprised by how much this was right in my wheelhouse, and I think this should be better-known among SF fans. It's a classic bildungsroman with epic battles, tragic romances, fun if somewhat archetypal characters, and a tremendous amount of cultural flavor and historical information. It was published serially, and as a result is extremely episodic, which isn't a flaw precisely, although it does slow down the pacing and make it a trifle choppy. It's also got a bit o As a fan of epic fantasy, I was surprised by how much this was right in my wheelhouse, and I think this should be better-known among SF fans. It's a classic bildungsroman with epic battles, tragic romances, fun if somewhat archetypal characters, and a tremendous amount of cultural flavor and historical information. It was published serially, and as a result is extremely episodic, which isn't a flaw precisely, although it does slow down the pacing and make it a trifle choppy. It's also got a bit of a problem *ending* things - villains in the first chapter persist through the entire 1000 pages, even though they suffer multiple defeats. (Which is not atypical of epic fantasy - witness Robert Jordan's Incredible Resurrectable Villains, an equally annoying example of the form.) But for its flaws, I found it thoroughly entertaining and totally readable, and would recommend it to anyone who doesn't have an allergy to doorstops.

  15. 5 out of 5

    David

    An incredible, sprawling masterpiece... Yoshikawa tells the story of Japan's greatest swordsman, Miyamoto Musashi, in an awing bildungsroman that sees a young violent punk transformed into a masterful buddhist hero. Inspired the Hiroshi Inagaki Samurai films. Highly recommended.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    There were portions of this novel that I really enjoyed, but other sections I found somewhat tedious. This is not because of a lack of action; on the contrary, there seems to be action in every single chapter. Rather it's because of the large number of poorly developed characters, settings, and side stories. Half the time, I found myself not caring. About halfway through the book I learned it had been written and published in serialized format in a Japanese newspaper. This is why each chapter fee There were portions of this novel that I really enjoyed, but other sections I found somewhat tedious. This is not because of a lack of action; on the contrary, there seems to be action in every single chapter. Rather it's because of the large number of poorly developed characters, settings, and side stories. Half the time, I found myself not caring. About halfway through the book I learned it had been written and published in serialized format in a Japanese newspaper. This is why each chapter feels like an individual short story and why some of the action in each chapter feels forced and aribtrary. I still enjoyed the book overall, especially the first half. I feel like the novel hung together really well up until The Spreading Pine chapter. Musashi's early journeys and battles are very entertaining. And The Spreading Pine chapter is, in some ways, the first of the book's two major climaxes. After The Spreading Pine, though, the book is not as cohesive. In almost every chapter new characters are introduced. Even the final two chapters introduce new characters. And the characters are rarely developed much, so they are hard to visualize, hard to remember. The end of the novel is sufficiently gratifying, although I wish it wasn't so cursory. Conflicts that have lasted for 800+ pages are given a few paragraphs to resolve with no follow-up. It was almost like Yoshikawa got tired of writing and decided to tie up all the loose ends in a single chapter. Although I'm glad I read this novel and still think it's worth reading, I feel it would have been better if: * Characters were fewer and developed better. * A map was used to show the locations of all the towns and cities, which are just as numerous as the characters. * Some of the plot had been tightened up. * The conclusion of the novel had been given more thorough treatment.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Autumn Christian

    An excellent book about the most famous swordsman of all time, Musashi. Closely follows his historical life, so many threads aren't always picked up in a normal narrative fashion. Thoroughly enjoyed all 1000 pages.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Martha Sockel

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Written in the early twentieth century, this indigenous Japanese novel recounts the life & times of old Japan's greatest swordsman, Miyamoto Musashi -- a man who began life as an over-eager and rather brutish young lout but who, through the discipline of Japan's "way of the sword," turned himself into a master of his chosen weapon. But this tale is not only one of a life spent in training to perfect the art of killing with a sharpened piece of steel. In the venerable Japanese tradition, it i Written in the early twentieth century, this indigenous Japanese novel recounts the life & times of old Japan's greatest swordsman, Miyamoto Musashi -- a man who began life as an over-eager and rather brutish young lout but who, through the discipline of Japan's "way of the sword," turned himself into a master of his chosen weapon. But this tale is not only one of a life spent in training to perfect the art of killing with a sharpened piece of steel. In the venerable Japanese tradition, it is also about a man's search to conquer himself, to become a better man. The Buddhist view cultivated by the Japanese warrior class allowed for a spiritual dimension to their very bloody (in western eyes) enterprise of warfare and killing. And it is this aspect of his training that consumes Musashi, to the detriment of the people he encounters and who seek to attach themselves to him. Unable to settle down in the ordinary way, or to simply join a particular clan as a retainer to some noble lord, Musashi embarks on the life of a ronin (masterless samurai) as he wends his way through the feudal world of medieval Japan in his seemingly endless search for perfection. In the process he finds a young woman who loves him and many enemies who seek his destruction, at least in part in repayment for the damage he does them while on his quest. He also crosses swords with many other experts in Japan's martial arts, but it is his encounter with a Buddhist priest that ultimately puts him on the right path. In the end Musashi finds his grail in a duel to the death with his greatest opponent, the sword master famous for his "swallow cut" -- a stroke so fast and deadly that it can slice a swooping, looping bird out of the air in mid-flight. This alone is a challenge worthy of the master which Musashi has become -- and a match which even he may not be up to, for this opponent is surely the finest technician in his art in all Japan. But there is more to swordsmanship than technical skill, as Musashi has learned, and there is more to living one's life than mere technical proficiency. Musashi attains a sort of peace in preparation for his climactic bout, for he is willing to risk all and even die in order to win against the master of the swallow cut, while applying all the strategy he has learned throughout his tumultuous career to unsettle the man who will oppose him. In the end Musashi lived to a fairly ripe old age and, unlike many of his contemporaries, died in his bed after composing the famous Book of Five Rings -- his own contribution to the art of strategy.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Anton

    Yoshikawa was reccomended to me by my uncle, a Japanese History enthusiast. I have an active interest in Japanese culture and ritual, but not even a working understanding of their history. Taiko, the actual novel that was reccomended to me, has a very similar tone and feel as Musashi, but what really interested me in this book is that the politics of ancient Japan is the backdrop for the novel, as Musashi, a maturing Samurai, wanders through the Japanese countryside. Taiko is much more focused o Yoshikawa was reccomended to me by my uncle, a Japanese History enthusiast. I have an active interest in Japanese culture and ritual, but not even a working understanding of their history. Taiko, the actual novel that was reccomended to me, has a very similar tone and feel as Musashi, but what really interested me in this book is that the politics of ancient Japan is the backdrop for the novel, as Musashi, a maturing Samurai, wanders through the Japanese countryside. Taiko is much more focused on the politics, as Taiko's wanderings take him in that direction, whereas Musashi's wanderings take him towards enlightnement through the martial arts. The Samurai stuff is very cool; as Samurai stuff tends to be. What is really interest is what a VERY flawed character Musashi is. He is a murderer, though a victim of his time I suppose; but beyond that he is a jerk. A real jerk when he is young. Perhaps this is historically accurate but either way it is an interesting choice to focus on his flaws as a catalyst for this learning. I would reccomend this to someone that is interested in Japanese and Samurai culture foremost. Musashi was apparently the first Samurai to fight with two swords at once - if that doesn't sound cool to you then this is NOT the book for you. It also gets very operatic at times (everything going on around Musashi is a Soap Opera) and it is impossible to be fully engaged in some of the characters that Yoshikawa spends a great deal of time on. But he always returns to Musashi's journey, which is the core of the narrative.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Abhishek Anbazhagan

    There are books that overwhelm you to such an extent that you are at a utter loss to explain how you feel after you have finished them.It is not that you are unable to pick the right words but you know that any words you choose will be in adequate to completely express how you feel.Let me still try,this book is going to have a strong bearing on the kind of person I turn out to be.As I shadowed Musashi through his wanderings and his education, I felt every emotion that coursed through his veins.I There are books that overwhelm you to such an extent that you are at a utter loss to explain how you feel after you have finished them.It is not that you are unable to pick the right words but you know that any words you choose will be in adequate to completely express how you feel.Let me still try,this book is going to have a strong bearing on the kind of person I turn out to be.As I shadowed Musashi through his wanderings and his education, I felt every emotion that coursed through his veins.It was an education in the simplistic application of discipline to lead a more complete life.This book has been a spectacular find. I hope I learn from it and change myself, for without exaggeration ,that is the only way I can bring honor to the book make myself worthy of having read it. "To tell the truth, I myself have run up against a wall. There are times when I wonder if I have any future. I feel completely empty. It's like being confined in a shell. I hate myself. I tell myself I'm no good. But by chastising myself and forcing myself to go on, I manage to kick through the shell. Then a new path opens up before me.”  - Musashi

  21. 4 out of 5

    Smiley

    Intimidated by its length for such a 7-book novel, I did not think I would finish reading this epic novel of a master samurai named Miyamoto Musashi (c. 1584-1645), one of the great Japanese swordsmen in 16th century Japan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miyamoto...). However, it is not simply a novel of ruthless, gory and god-like fights we might have read in the same genre or guessed from its brutal-looking cover, rather it is a classic samurai novel penned brilliantly by Eiji Yoshikawa since it Intimidated by its length for such a 7-book novel, I did not think I would finish reading this epic novel of a master samurai named Miyamoto Musashi (c. 1584-1645), one of the great Japanese swordsmen in 16th century Japan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miyamoto...). However, it is not simply a novel of ruthless, gory and god-like fights we might have read in the same genre or guessed from its brutal-looking cover, rather it is a classic samurai novel penned brilliantly by Eiji Yoshikawa since its book titles may suggest its contents and challenge our wonder: Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, Sky, Sun and Moon, The Perfect Light. Typically, we would enjoy its innumerable episodes subtly revealed off and on in terms of the Way of the Sword, the Art of War, and Zen, therefore, this novel is heartily recommended to any Japanophile who may try reading this unique samurai novel and appreciate each chapter, for instance, in BOOK I as follows: The Little Bell The Comb The Flower Festival The Dowager's Wrath The Art of War The Old Cryptomeria Tree The Rock and the Tree The Birth of Musashi

  22. 5 out of 5

    Giedrius Padriezas

    Amazing Japanese story about fighter's demeanor, patience, perseverance, rivalries, hard work, which always results in a pay off at a later time. Next to this, there is also love, which follows the characters in every move. Well written, hence, easy to read. Many gems of ideas in this one. Hope to read Shogun soon, expectations are pretty high after this.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Joseph L

    When browsing Amazon one day, I was looking for books to get for reading. I am really into the genres of Samurai and Historical Japan, so when I came across this book, it caught my attention. I have heard of the famous ronin Miyamoto Musashi before in history and other works (Samurai Champloo for example) and I have always loved his story and the era he comes from. When I saw that there was a whole novel/epic (albeit fictional) about him from Japan, I got very excited and bought it immediately. When browsing Amazon one day, I was looking for books to get for reading. I am really into the genres of Samurai and Historical Japan, so when I came across this book, it caught my attention. I have heard of the famous ronin Miyamoto Musashi before in history and other works (Samurai Champloo for example) and I have always loved his story and the era he comes from. When I saw that there was a whole novel/epic (albeit fictional) about him from Japan, I got very excited and bought it immediately. The book itself is split up into 7 different books/sections, so this is a review of the first 4 books that I read. The story of Musashi is one of violence, betrayal, spite, and glory. Being a survivor of the losing side of the Battle of Sekigahara, Musashi, then Shimmen Takezo, returned home to Miyamoto after the battle. Matahachi, his soon-to-be-married friend who ran off with a stranger woman (Oko) who seduced him, was also at the battle. Upon arrival, he is immediately hunted down and wanted for betrayal because he attacked the border wall on the way there. He is captured by the monk Takuan, but then cut free and helped by Otsu, Matahachi's fiance. Matahachi's mother, the insane Osugi, blames Takezo for Matahachi's now broken marriage and vows to hunt and kill both Takezo and Otsu. Takezo wants to be known, he wants to be something special, he wants to be powerful. He enters a many-year-long study after being found by Takuan again and becomes very educated and well-established. He renames himself to Miyamoto Musashi and begins his journey of becoming a powerful ronin. The story is one of many fights, bouts, arguments, and chases, and is very entertaining to the reader. Musashi's story to greatness is very intriguing and gripping. The characters throughout the story are well-written and well-established, and there are a LOT of characters in it. From priests to daimyos to beggars to samurai to wanderers to farmers, there are a lot of characters we meet, and it really gives an insight into how varied the culture of ancient Japan really was. The world feels alive, and you get transported into it whenever you read. The book emanates culture, and at points, there are whole pages or two dedicated to teaching the reader about some point in Japanese history. It really shows you what it was like to be live in ancient Japan while keeping you entertained with its gripping and exciting narrative. The many pros of this story include the writing, descriptions, and overall setting. The writing is fairly easy to read but very well done. Yoshikawa's description of actions, settings, and events throughout this book make it very easy to get a good, detailed picture of everything that is happening. There is a lot of detail in words without getting too much/too boring. It is just right, and is done very well in my opinion. It keeps the story much more interesting to the reader than it already is by itself. The biggest pro for me, however, is the general/overall setting of the novel. I have always loved and adored ancient/samurai era Japan and stories about samurai/ronin fighters, so naturally, this was an automatic pro for me. The sprawling mountains, the beautiful forests, the peaceful villages, the busy and bustling cities, and the many, many fights that go on never fail to get me excited, so that alone was a pro for me. Yoshikawa's details and descriptions of these aspects and more of this time period in Japan help bring them to life, so this easily makes the book something special. The biggest con I have with the story is the tropes. As a very big fan of Japanese media (anime, manga, etc.), I am often annoyed whenever a story includes the incredibly generic tropes a lot of those stories do. The tropes that make me the most annoyed in Musashi are easily romance tropes (love triangles, romantic drama, etc.). Being originally published in 1935, it sort of gets a pass for basically starting these tropes instead of just using them, but tropes like love triangles are incredibly annoying and dumb to me and take away a lot from stories that use them. In romance stories, they are sometimes fine, but in samurai action epics? It doesn't fit for me in stories like this at all and drags a lot of aspects and characters' story arcs down. Another trope this book uses is the "character dies but not actually" trope. Avoiding spoilers, a character seemed like they were killed off and it was very shocking and honestly made the story much more interesting for me, but a page later it was revealed that actually, it was someone completely different (a very minor character) who died. Things like that annoy me a lot, and cliches like that bring the story down a lot for me when used commonly. Overall, this is a must-read for anyone who likes samurai novels/stories and ancient/classic-era Japan. It's very long and dense, but definitely worth the read in my opinion.

  24. 5 out of 5

    James Q. Golden

    Being an enormous fan of the manga Vagabond I decided to read Eiji Yoshikawa's version on Musashi, and I have to admit that story-wise the novel is way better than the manga. Of course, one can expect that when comparing a novel to a manga, but still, here the characters and story acquire so many different dimensions it's mind blowing. Adding to the fact that events aren't as exaggerated as in the manga (as the art usually does), this gives the story a much more real, much more serious vibe, act Being an enormous fan of the manga Vagabond I decided to read Eiji Yoshikawa's version on Musashi, and I have to admit that story-wise the novel is way better than the manga. Of course, one can expect that when comparing a novel to a manga, but still, here the characters and story acquire so many different dimensions it's mind blowing. Adding to the fact that events aren't as exaggerated as in the manga (as the art usually does), this gives the story a much more real, much more serious vibe, actually transporting you in life threatening situations while enveloping you with Japanese culture, morals, and predicaments. But enough with comparing the manga with the novel; each one is a masterpiece for its own reasons. Let's delve a little further into the book and why it's such a profound piece of art. For those who aren't familiar with Edo period Japan and the path of the sword, as well as those who're only familiar with them through anime and manga, it'd be good to understand that, although things weren't as wild and inhumane as in medieval Japan. we're talking about an era and culture where the roles in society were still fixed and hopeless. There were lords, farmers, vendors, and samurai, each having their own advantages and disadvantages. A samurai for example was identified with his honor and he was free to exercise his right to kill whoever insulted him, however light this so-called insult might have been (you could sneeze at the wrong time and lose your head!). Kiri-sute gomen[1] (斬捨御免 or 切捨御免, "authorization to cut and leave [the body of the victim]") is an old Japanese expression dating back to the feudal era right to strike (right of samurai to kill commoners for perceived affronts). Samurai had the right to strike with sword at anyone of a lower class who compromised their honour. So in a world where Kiri-sute gomen existed and where Samurai ruled the common folk unless there was a lord around, where half the people carried a katana and were ready to use it, in a world where the hive mentally reigned supreme, there came Musashi: the epitome of reason and masculinity. Nowadays we hear people talking about toxic masculinity. It's true that toxicity can affect every aspect of the human experience, even the most basic ones such as masculinity. But what's the opposite of toxic masculinity and does it exist? Musashi proves it does. In a society where the strongest warriors are kings, Musashi--arguably the strongest samurai that has ever lived--walks through the world as a beggar. He doesn't take advantage of his skills to wine and whore, neither to make money and fame. Instead he's focused and pure. His sole goal is to walk the path of the sword with all his heart until the very end, to face the strongest and become the most powerful samurai in Japan, to beat the game and find out what's waiting for him on the other side. Eiji Yoshikawa does an excellent job weaving concepts of Zen and Saki (blood-thirst) as well as the ups and downs of the human experience into masterfully crafted scenes filled with great dialogue and serious action. In doing so, he also shows us what the pure feminine feels and looks like and how overpowering it is in its subtleness and beauty: Otsū. Otsu is the main female character and although she's all about Musashi and reuniting with him, she's very farm from being a bore. Whenever a scene is dedicated to her she lights the whole novel up. She's something inexplicable. In a culture where unprotected women are used, raped and killed, she strives by just being herself. A woman all heart and tenderness that gives life even to the dying master Yagyu Sekishusai. Odyssey, one of the greatest epic poems of ancient Greece tells the story of Odysseus and his crew, as for more than ten years pass through all kinds of mysterious and mythical hardships, losing their minds, losing their friends, losing all hope, trying to get back to Ithaca, Penelope waiting for the only man she's ever loved as she fights all sorts of lecherous men off her. We've all heard the story. In Musashis we have something similar but quite reverse. Here Odysseus leaves his Ithaca on his own free will. He delves head-on into the hardest of hardships a samurai can face: famine, poverty, insulting the honor of the most famous samurai clan in Japan. Even living in heaven there's no heaven unless you've faced hell, so our hero does exactly that. Meanwhile, his Penelope is not waiting but looking for him because there's neither an island nor a kingdom for them to return to. They only have each other. But unless the path of the sword is genuinely walked to its very end, they will both keep on walking through hell, searching and avoiding each other until hell falls apart. This is a story of Yin and Yang, of love and blood, of people on a path among people with plans, of the pure trying to find itself through the impure, of zen and now. In my humble opinion this is the most spiritual and humane novel one can read while enjoying some good action. In other words, a true masterpiece. If you like listening to audiobooks then it's good to know that Brian Nishii (Narrator) has done an astonishing job in this one as well. Personally I can't imagine a better audio book version than this one, as the narrator has a great gamut of emotional expressions and is both fluent in Japanese and Chinese, perfect for the story. For people like me who're very picky when choosing an audio version of a book, it's truly a great privilege to have works like that at my disposal. Excellent. Finally, to those that complained that the main characters kept bumping on each other in every city they happened to arrive, you have to understand that: a) the story is taking place throughout many years, b) there weren't that many people around four hundred years ago, c) not many people dared to roam about when the world was filled with blood and steel, so if you Did dare to travel around, you belonged to the minority and minorities Do tend to stumble upon themselves. “In battle, if you you make your opponent flinch, you have already won.” ― Miyamoto Musashi

  25. 4 out of 5

    George

    I've always loved the culture of the Samurai and followed comic book manifestations such as Usagi Yojimbo and Wolf & Cub, as well as movies and tv shows such as Zato Ichi. So to finally read the historical fiction of Myamoto Musashi was a guilty pleasure and I sunk into its 970 pages (53 hours via audiobook, read beautifully by Brian Niishi). The story isn't complex and the characters beyond Musashi and his friends lack a certain complexity. But it's a meandering story over a decade and detai I've always loved the culture of the Samurai and followed comic book manifestations such as Usagi Yojimbo and Wolf & Cub, as well as movies and tv shows such as Zato Ichi. So to finally read the historical fiction of Myamoto Musashi was a guilty pleasure and I sunk into its 970 pages (53 hours via audiobook, read beautifully by Brian Niishi). The story isn't complex and the characters beyond Musashi and his friends lack a certain complexity. But it's a meandering story over a decade and details the central character following the life of a ronin as he learns the way of the sword. The subplots add some interesting details and characters seem comfortable to be separated by many years. It builds up nicely to the final battle between Musashi and his ultimate opponent. A great read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Giorgio Montenegro

    A great read, worth the 1000ish pages of the book. It transports you to a different era, you can almost feel yourself living in the 1600's Japan. What can I say that other reviewers didn't? The application and mindset of martial arts that go beyond it's movements. A love story that isn't a cliché. A very deep book with great passages of the Eastern Buddhism of the times, I found myself highlighting them to study their structure and composition. This is a masterpiece of writing and story telling a A great read, worth the 1000ish pages of the book. It transports you to a different era, you can almost feel yourself living in the 1600's Japan. What can I say that other reviewers didn't? The application and mindset of martial arts that go beyond it's movements. A love story that isn't a cliché. A very deep book with great passages of the Eastern Buddhism of the times, I found myself highlighting them to study their structure and composition. This is a masterpiece of writing and story telling and I feel very fortunate to have stumbled upon this book. Go and read it, you will not be disappointed. 10/10

  27. 5 out of 5

    Joyce

    I was looking forward to this classic Samurai tale, but, for me at least, it didn't live up to the hype. The intro calls it more authentic than Shogun, and that may be true, but it's also less compelling. Pace is often very slow, large cast of characters who flit in and out of the story (narrator doesn't help with this), some action but really more about Japanese life and culture in the early 17th century. That part is more interesting; I found the promised swashbuckling sadly lacking. Episodic I was looking forward to this classic Samurai tale, but, for me at least, it didn't live up to the hype. The intro calls it more authentic than Shogun, and that may be true, but it's also less compelling. Pace is often very slow, large cast of characters who flit in and out of the story (narrator doesn't help with this), some action but really more about Japanese life and culture in the early 17th century. That part is more interesting; I found the promised swashbuckling sadly lacking. Episodic tale that blends realistic with imaginative. Narrator not up to the task of making this come alive. Very big book that goes on and on.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    This was great. Beautiful snapshot of one of the most interesting times and places in history. Loved that one of the main antagonists was an elderly woman who would blacken her teeth with charcoal to try to sneak attack him. Love story aspect did seem a bit forced, (Otsu had to have been the most patient woman in history if any of it is to be believed) but all in all the characters were portrayed with realistic depth.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    This beautifully written and easy-to-read piece historical-fiction depicts the the life and times of the early 15th century samurai 'Musashi', and his search for meaning via the way of the sword. Epic historical samurai fiction (or whatever you want to call it) isn't usually my type of thing... but this coming-of-age story is entrenched with age-old wisdom and values. It especially hones-in on the dedication to one's craft and the perils along the way - with shout-outs to stoicism, minimalism and This beautifully written and easy-to-read piece historical-fiction depicts the the life and times of the early 15th century samurai 'Musashi', and his search for meaning via the way of the sword. Epic historical samurai fiction (or whatever you want to call it) isn't usually my type of thing... but this coming-of-age story is entrenched with age-old wisdom and values. It especially hones-in on the dedication to one's craft and the perils along the way - with shout-outs to stoicism, minimalism and meditation. Took me a month to knock off this lengthy 950+ pager... but time well spent. Yoshikawa intertwines plots with life lessons and new characters in a masterful fashion. My favourite book I've read this year (so far). A must-read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    Marvellous novel that gives us samurai life, adventures, romance and daily life of ordinary people of Japan. I got it why they say it's the Japanese Gone with the wind: huge novel that perfectly showcases us a period of time in Japan. " The novel is a portrait of feudal Japan, showcasing honor and friendship on multiple levels. (...) the novel reveals important cultural truths.(Kris Kosaka)"

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