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148 of 164 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Tale of Old Japan's Most Famous Swordsman
Written in the early twentieth century, this indigenous Japanese novel recounts the life and 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 about a...
Published on May 14, 2000 by Stuart W. Mirsky

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Great novel, terrible Kindle Edit
Very good, if not monumental novel. Great summer read. A little repetitive and tedious in places. The famous fights are glossed over to focus on the endless love intrigues. Abysmal Kindle editing. As usual. A LOT Of mistakes in spelling, grammar and formatting. Prefer hard copy.
Published 20 days ago by OccamsRazor


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148 of 164 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Tale of Old Japan's Most Famous Swordsman, May 14, 2000
This review is from: Musashi (Hardcover)
Written in the early twentieth century, this indigenous Japanese novel recounts the life and 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 about 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 person. The Buddhist view cultivated by the Japanese warrior class allowed for a spiritual dimension to their very bloody 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 early encounter with a Buddhist priest that puts him on the path which will forever after guide his life. Musashi ultimately finds his grail in a duel to the death with a man called Kojiro, who will become his greatest opponent, a 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 merely preserving it. 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 became a legend to his countrymen, composing the famous Book of Five Rings -- his contribution to the art of strategy. But what he and Kojiro must do when they finally face each other is a tale in itself -- and a denoument towards which everything else in this book ultimately leads.

By the way, there are a whole slew of good books out there for those into good historical fiction, including a brand new one by Jeff Janoda called Saga: A Novel of Medieval Iceland which details the events surrounding an intriguing episode in Eyrbyggja Saga (Penguin Classics) (one of the most renowned of the original Norse sagas). It tells the tale of a great feud between two chieftains over a little piece of forested land in a place and time in which wood had become nearly as precious as gold. There are some remarkable resonances between the old samurai culture of medieval Japan and that of the medieval Icelanders, and it's worth exploring them through Janoda's new book.

SWM
author of The King of Vinland's Saga
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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A timeless classic, February 17, 2000
This review is from: Musashi (Hardcover)
I first read this book back in 1982 while a student attending the American School in Japan in Tokyo. The thousand or so pages of text did seem daunting at first but I could not put the book down ater the first few pages. Not only did it provide me with a greater understanding of my own Japanese heritage (I am half Japanese) but it did offer a greater and fundamental insight into what all of us are searching for -- the understanding of the self, way to approach things seen and unseen around us and a calm awareness of life. I have worked and lived throughout the world (Latin America, West/East Europe, and Russia in addition to the US)since my first reading and find that I am able to identify with the local cultures and find that many of the "lessons" garnered from this epic are also interwoven into the ideals of each of culture. It is also interesting to note that "the way" is now commonly referenced in leading business publications and books (read some of the great recent stuff from Tom Peters and you will see what I mean). The search for such understanding goes back to the Iliad but it is possible to trace the development, maturation and blossom of one single person (in this case Musashi) and experience the continous challenges he must face in order to defeat his demons. The combat scene at the Spreading Pine rivals any such related written description of someone working in a difficult situation but under total self control. Whenever I find myself in a difficult situation, I take time and re-read that chapter. Read the "Book of Five Rings" from the pen of Musahi himself next. At the very least, anyone who wants to gain a deeper understanding into Japanese culture should read this book.
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70 of 79 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent adventure tale re: Japan's most famous swordsman, June 12, 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Musashi (Hardcover)
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. (And, by the way, The Art of War, another famous book of military strategy was written by the Chinese general Sun T'zu -- not "Lao T'zu.") -- Stuart W. Mirsky (mirsky@ix.netcom.com
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83 of 97 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better in Retrospect than I Had Thought!, December 10, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Musashi (Hardcover)
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 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, early on,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, Kojiro, 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 more to living one's life than merely following rules. 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. I had originally rated this book at four stars only but on re-thinking it I find it continues to live vividly in my mind so that, alone, suggests it had a more powerful resonance than I originally gave it credit for. Certainly there are many levels in any continuum of ranking and many ways of placing anything ranked on that continuum. But in one very serious way, this book deserves a five star ranking, not a four so I am correcting for this now.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not just a book, but a life lesson!, May 6, 2001
This review is from: Musashi (Hardcover)
When I first saw this book on a bookstore shelf I thought with myself, "People must be crazy to read such a big book", well, two volumes, 1808 pages (Portuguese edition), it's not a weekend book. I don't know why but I bought it, when I finished reading the first 100 pages, I couldn't let the book go, If I went to the bathroom it was surely to be under my arm, compulsive reading it's what it is, I finished reading the first volume and I didn't wait a single day to buy the second one. And now that I finished it I spend long hours searching the net for information s about Musashi's life.
This book is not just a martial arts book, nor an ordinary story, it's a great introdution to oriental values and virtues as well as to Zen Buddhism. Musashi is a book about life, about the search of a meaning to life itself. Every page, every sentence, every Musashi word is a lesson, a true lesson from a man that spent his life searching his goals, his perfection and spiritual fulfillness.
I'd spend days recommending this book and it wouldn't be enough, so get your copy now!!
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An epic-- entertaining even for those who don't read at all., July 14, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Musashi (Hardcover)
Books numbering to nearly 1000 pages daunt me-- as you can tell, I don't read very much, even though I should. Of course, knowing vaguely of the legend of Musashi prompted me to pick up this book-- and I haven't regretted it. I am only 60% done with it, but just for that first 60% I'd still give it a five-star rating. Not only was it true to Japanese culture, it was entertaining. (Shogun, the film, was true to form but not very entertaining for me.) What is very fun about the book is the way that Yoshikawa uses characters who existed at that time, and events that took place at that time (mostly the duels), and swirled them into a semi-fiction novel. The character personalities are simply intriguing. For vernacular purposes, "cool" describes many of the ronin portrayed in the book. I enjoy the mixture of arrogance, honor and skill that characterize the samurai-- especially Sasaki Kojiro Ganryu's references to his thirsty Drying Pole.
As a last note, the translation was exemplary. Not only was it technically correct, but Terry managed to transfer Yoshikawa's humor into English so that it was understood, and generally captured Yoshikawa's intentions throughout the book-- it seemed that things which are easy to describe in Japanese, yet having no literal translation in English, were recognized by Terry and converted into understandable English.
After I finish the book, chances are that Amazon.com had better establish a 6 star rating.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly moving, January 31, 2000
By 
WPL (Yokohama, Japan) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Musashi (Hardcover)
It is nearly impossible for me to give an even remotely unbiased review of Yoshikawa Eiji's "Musashi" as it simply the greatest saga I've ever read.
Set in Feudal Japan, beginning just before the battle of Sekigahara, you follow a naive and undisciplined young man with dreams of becoming a great samurai off to war. He is immediately hit with the reality that being a samurai is not as easy as enlisting for war. His world is thrown into further turmoil when his side loses the "Great Battle" of Sekigahara, leaving him and his best friend, stranded and alone in enemy territory . . .
This is just the beginning of the story of Musashi and the quest that eventually transforms him into the great samurai that created the style of fighting with two swords.
I so much loved this book that on two occasions, I have found myself vehemently arguing with Japanese acquaintances in Musashi's defense (as a handful historians have disputed Yoshikawa's depiction of Musashi's final duel).
Musashi . . . my hero.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really, really, really great story!!!, February 21, 2002
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This review is from: Musashi (Hardcover)
The only disappointment you will feel is when the book ends because there isnt anymore of it to read. The story was the first I read about medieval Japan. The story is a narrative written in elaborate, yet by no means boring detail. There are many elements to the writing that testify to the genius of the author. First of all, the story is riveting all the way from the beginning to the end, although in the end you are literally unable to take your eyes off the book (I read the last 120 pages non-stop and missed work that day!!). Second, all the characters interact nicely in a complex and yet realistic manner. This is the element that must have inspired the film noir genre! Third, the story provides a moral that you can infer easily without the author having to impose it on the reader. And last, there are no pretenses on part of the characters in the story: Musashi is a great and yet by no means a perfect man (he continues learning all the way through the story), and his adversaries are sometimes cruel and yet not pure evil. All of those factors combine to give a great epic that will definitely be an unforgettable reading. Go buy it!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Saga!, November 16, 2006
This review is from: Musashi (Hardcover)
Though poorly written in places (or perhaps it is difficult to properly translate colloquial Japanese), it's quite a fun read. It is sort of a thinly fictionalized account of the amazing 16/17th century life of ronin-Samurai, hero, painter, author and great swordsman, Miyamoto Musashi's amazing life. He's sort of the Davey Crockett of Japan, except that he was a much more impressive, and less fictional character. The thing which most annoys me about it is that I have seen a Toshiro Mifume movie of the same name which follows the text rather closely. But, how could I complain? It is such a good screen adaption, and such a glorious story; I'm really complaining about something which is quite wonderful. It is quite a revealing look into the Japanese mindset; particularly in the 1930s, when it was written (it apparently remains wildly popular). It was wonderful to read about Musashi growing from a brash youth into a master swordsman. Makes me want to contemplate willow trees, brooks and birds. The duel at the whispering pine is one of those scenes, like Ahab crying into the ocean, that will stay with me forever.

Yoshikawa is apparently a prolific author, and I am excited to find he has many other english translations available. If they're half as swashbuckling and wise as this one, I have years of good fun awaiting me.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most inspiring works I have ever read, March 13, 2007
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This review is from: Musashi (Hardcover)
Prior to reading this gem, I had watched the movie trilogy "Mushashi" had inspired (the first of which won the Oscar for best foreign film in the 60's), and had read another of Yoshikawa's works, "Taiko", which I loved. But for whatever reason, I didn't exactly rush to read this book, which was a gift to me in Christmas, 2005. Perhaps it was the jacket cover describing this book as the "Gone with the Wind" of Japan (which brought a yawn to me), or the daunting length of the novel, which seemed undeserved considering the movies I had seen.

However, when I finally got down to the business of reading the book, I was well-rewarded - "Musashi" is an incredibly inspiring piece of historical fiction, a story of a man who, though seemingly an anachronism in a increasingly peaceful 17th century Japan, would rise to fame and greatness as a samurai, and embody many of the traits we now associate with these warriors.

The novel begins with the undisciplined (though talented) brute Takezo, after the defeat of the Western army at the battle of Sekigahara. Through much fault of his own, Takezo would become an outlaw in his country, yet through the help of the remarkable priest Takuan, would spend the next ten years of his life perfecting his body, his sword and his soul, ultimately taking the name Musashi. Though he would run afoul of numerous entities (including the Yoshiaki school of swordsmen and the cruel but gifted Ganryu), he would learn from each and every one of his errors, and develop the two-sword style which would become famous throughout Japan.

In the same spirit, we see the domestication of Japan itself, from a country torn my civil war to the peaceful realm it would become under Ieyasu Tokugawa. Indeed, it has been said that "Musashi" is the model of many Japanese people today, a fiercely independent spirit beneath an exterior which always remembers form and tradition. But in any case, there is plenty of action to go around, with or without the heavy symbolism.

I would strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in Japan's past.
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Musashi
Musashi by Charles S. Terry (Hardcover - July 14, 1995)
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