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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very important book.
Katsu Kokichi's autobiography shows the gritty, dark, realistic side of Tokugawa society. This samurai, who was always down on his luck, mostly because of his own rotten ideas and unethical actions, lied, cheated, stole and ran around with the riffraff of Edo. He ran away from home, twice, once at the age of 14 and once at the age of 21. The second time he was running...
Published on October 24, 2005 by Michael Valdivielso

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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This fast-paced read gives an in-depth, personal account of what it was like to be a samuari during the peaceful Tokugawa Era.
This easy to read autobiography by Katsu Kokichi is a revealing glimpse of the day to day life and struggles of a Japanese samauri in the late Tokugawa era. Filled with fast-paced adventures and heart wrenching hardships one gets the sense that people in this time period knew how to survive. If Katsu's life could be drawn out in a horizontal timeline it would be...
Published on September 17, 2006 by Timothy Freeman


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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very important book., October 24, 2005
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This review is from: Musui's Story: The Autobiography of a Tokugawa Samurai (Paperback)
Katsu Kokichi's autobiography shows the gritty, dark, realistic side of Tokugawa society. This samurai, who was always down on his luck, mostly because of his own rotten ideas and unethical actions, lied, cheated, stole and ran around with the riffraff of Edo. He ran away from home, twice, once at the age of 14 and once at the age of 21. The second time he was running away from his OWN household - his wife and his bills. He once lived as a begger, travelled a lot (well, ran away a lot) and learned a lot about how to get money without doing any real work.
This book is important as a piece of first person history into the real lifes and people of the 19th Century Japan. It showed how many Samurai lived during the time of peace, trying to take odd jobs, make some money and still dress, act and give the impression of being warriors. A must for any history library.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of a kind look into a Japanese Samurai, January 28, 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Musui's Story: The Autobiography of a Tokugawa Samurai (Paperback)
This book is the reprinted translated diary of a Samurai in Japan in the early 1800's. It gives the reader a unique look into Japanese society at that time. The samurai in question, Katsu Kokichi, is not a very good samurai which makes this book all the more interesting to read. The reader is drawn into the dilemmas of Katsu and his times. The book also includes beautiful ink drawings and full color plates of tokyo and its environs. This adds to the fullness of the story. This book is perfect for anyone who likes autobiographies or who is interested in Japanese and Asian culture
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This fast-paced read gives an in-depth, personal account of what it was like to be a samuari during the peaceful Tokugawa Era., September 17, 2006
This review is from: Musui's Story: The Autobiography of a Tokugawa Samurai (Paperback)
This easy to read autobiography by Katsu Kokichi is a revealing glimpse of the day to day life and struggles of a Japanese samauri in the late Tokugawa era. Filled with fast-paced adventures and heart wrenching hardships one gets the sense that people in this time period knew how to survive. If Katsu's life could be drawn out in a horizontal timeline it would be characterized by peaks and valleys marking his prosperous highs of fiscal fortune and widespread popularity and his debt ridden lows of illness and incurred filial dishonor. Juxtaposing stories of the highlights of his successes as a swordsman, teacher and local sage are tales of poverty, shame and rakishness--Katsu is such an incorrigible youth that his family locks him in a cage for three years during his early 20s.

The author seems to recognize his best trait saying in his Prologue that, "surely Heaven must have blessed me because even in the midst of my errant ways I helped people out, giving money unstingily and rescuing them from difficulties." Nevertheless, he cannot help but look back on his life in his reitrement with guilt-ridden scorn, telling his progreny to, "read carefully what I have set down and take it as a warning." This book gives an in depth, personal look at what it was like to be a samuari in the Tokugawa era, a 200 year-long age of peace in Japan that lasted from approximately the late 16th Century until 1868. What is a warrior to do when there are no wars to fight and no domestic uprisings to quell? How is a samauri supposed to survive off of a modest government stipend while there are a limited number of jobs he can do? Musui's Story answers these questions and much, much more.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Insightful Book, November 10, 2007
This review is from: Musui's Story: The Autobiography of a Tokugawa Samurai (Paperback)
During the 1840s in Japan, Katsu Kokichi wrote his own life story in this book, which was translated into English by Teruko Craig. During the late period of the Tokugawa era, Katsu Kokichi came from a lower-class samurai family with a stipend of 100 koku of rice. Katsu became a rebel child during his earlier life and he has run into trouble numerous times throughout his lifetime. There are nine chapters in this book with the addition of Craig's introduction in which he gives the historical background of Katsu. Through the book, there is a moral insight on why samurai declined in the mid-1800s. By looking at Katsu's life and his surroundings in Tokugawa Japan, the role of samurai, how Katsu broke the code of samurai, why he behaved in dishonorable ways, and three small evidences for the decline of a samurai is analyzed.

The role model of a samurai was to be on his best behavior, not commit any acts of crimes which would disgrace his lord or his family, and to show his loyalty to his shogun and to his emperor. The samurai would set an example for his offspring or for his students in which they would soon become better samurai and honorable warriors. The son of a samurai would go to school to take lessons to be an educated swordsman and a skilled horse rider. In Katsu's book, the commoners or a fellow samurai had respected, honored, and treated Katsu family fairly as a samurai after he became known for helping out a few people in the critical situations, which was part of a samurai's honorable ways. But, whether samurai does something unwise or disgraceful in his own personal time, he not only dishonored himself but to his entire family house. This is what happened with Katsu when he broke the code.

With Katsu's lifestyle, breaking the code of a samurai is contemplated. Katsu's own lifestyle is different from other samurais because he had behaved badly and acts in an irresponsible way, as evident in this book. Judging from his actions and misdeeds, Katsu had cheated to get what he wanted. And, by judging his actions as a child would explained why he behaved in such dishonorable ways since he had shown that he does not want to learn his lessons at school and wanted to "have fun." Because he had issues at home and at school, Katsu developed a hatred and anger toward his fellow samurais and started getting into fights with them, which was not part of true lifestyle of a samurai. In some aspects of Katsu's behavior, he thought he was better than other samurais and became ignorant and shallow, which may have led to his failure of becoming a true honorable samurai and why he failed to hold government office post during his adult years.

Through Katsu's experiences in this book, there were three notable evidences which may have led the samurai class to decline in the mid-19th century. These evidences included he wealth of the samurai, the tax money, and the corruption between the samurai and the peasants. When one analyzed these evidences in this book, one would noticed why this is so.

The role of samurai, how Katsu broke the code of samurai, why he behaved in a dishonor ways, and the evidences of samurai's decline through Katsu's experiences is expressed very well in this book. The experiences of Katsu Kokcihi in "Musui's Story" were an interesting perspective of the lifestyle and the "feudal" culture in the Tokugawa Japan before the decline of samurai.

Such an insightful book, and it is to be recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Review of Musui's Story, March 29, 2007
By 
T. Dreeke (Las Vegas, Nevada USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Musui's Story: The Autobiography of a Tokugawa Samurai (Paperback)
I recently had the opportunity to read the autobiography of Katsu Kokichi. Musui's Story, translated by Teruko Craig, is the story of an unethical Japanese samurai in the late Tokugawa era. Musui finds himself in all sorts of dilemmas (mostly because of his own bad ideas) and unethical actions. From a very young age Musui was getting into mischief and causing his mother's life to be difficult. As he gets older he continues his ways by lying, cheating, and stealing through life. He disgraces the Katsu name, which had served the shogun honorably for generations. By the time he retires he looks back on his life, even warning others not to follow in his footsteps, but never expresses that he as any guilt about his behavior as a samurai.

This translation is modern and well-written. It is filled with a dark, more realistic side of Japan during the Tokugawa Era. It is a significant indication that the overall society was in a state of degeneration during the early 19th century. At times this book was funny, showing a different side of a samurai within the Japanese society at that time. It is a good book for those interested in Japanese culture
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Record of a Scoundrel, April 11, 2007
This review is from: Musui's Story: The Autobiography of a Tokugawa Samurai (Paperback)
Who writes an autobiography? Most people who write them are people of note, movers and shakers in their realms and time-periods, people with something to say. Rarely do we get to read the autobiography of a general loser, someone who is by no measure a good person, and someone completely beyond admiration. Welcome to Musui's world.

Musui, also know as Katsu Kokichi, was a low-ranking samurai and general good-for-nothing who never thought beyond his immediate needs, and did his best to attain something for nothing when ever possible. He started out bad, as a schoolyard bully who used his status as a samurai to push around lower-ranking kids. The older he got, the worse he got, and all means to control him or teach him respect failed, including his father locking him in a cage and forcing him to read classic military treatise. He was eventually adopted off into another family, which brought along with it a bride and a meager salary. It was never enough to keep up with his habit of visiting prostitutes in the Yoshiwara pleasure districts, so he was soon a leader amongst the black market, working with local extortionists and hoodlums, selling swords and working every possible kind of confidence racket.

Now, everything in this book should be taken with a grain of salt. Katsu was a grand liar with an enormous ego, who bluffed his way into money and out of trouble on a regular basis. His tales of his exemplary swordsmanship, his acts of kindness, his ability to drink bottle after bottle of sake without ever getting drunk, smacks as more wish-fulfillment than the true character of an unrepentant rouge. The translator, Teruko Craig, has added some notes on the accuracy of Katsu's tales, and surprisingly some of the most fantastic adventures are backed up by other sources. I suppose it is up to the reader to determine what is fact and what is fiction.

Teruko Craig has worked a minor miracle with this translation. Because of Katsu's sketchy literacy, and limited vocabulary, he has had to pull out all the stops in making a readable text that still maintains the flavor of Katsu's way of writing. The result is a very enjoyable, readable book that brings a nice balance to the world of the samurai. We have all read of the honor and integrity. It is nice to have some of the Low along with the High.
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14 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Three Cheers for Japanese Humor, December 1, 2000
By 
"cliftonwolf" (Charlottesville, VA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Musui's Story: The Autobiography of a Tokugawa Samurai (Paperback)
This book is one of the funniest I've ever read -- no joke. I was laughing in tears when Katsu fell from a cliff and injuried his genitals, and then his son almost died when his were bitten by a wild dog. Also, he was insulted once by a drunk Shinto priest, pleased the peasants by lying about their koku output, and locked in a cage by his own family for several years. In addition to the above humors, he was involved in numerous comical fights, such as one at a Shrine and another involving his entire neighborhood.
Katsu, a low-ranking Samarai during the late-Tokugawa Era, was a man without the traditional Samarai ethical code. He worked in Edo's "redlight district," stole from family members, beat his wife, and insulted his nephews regarding their dead brother. Katsu was a skilled swordsman, however, having defeated countless enemies. Katsu learned to read and write at age 20, and the book reflects his low-level of literacy. He wrote it in recollection after having taken the religious name "Musui." Katsu died right before the Meji Restoration, so the book offers a good glimpse into a secluded Japan.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Times may change but people rarely do, March 17, 2005
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This review is from: Musui's Story: The Autobiography of a Tokugawa Samurai (Paperback)
Sometimes we ask ourselves what life must have been like in other places and other times. This book is the most realistic examples of such an account I have ever read. The scenes are so comical and hilarious you feel sorry for the guy for all his misfortune but at the same time can't help laughing at the manner it which its presented. It reminds me a lot of Voltaire's Candide or in modern references a much older version of the Sopranos. If you get a chance read this book, you'll definitely find a lot of laughs and a plethora of timeless lessons of a hard life tucked beneath the surface.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A different take on the on Samurai's, April 2, 2007
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This review is from: Musui's Story: The Autobiography of a Tokugawa Samurai (Paperback)
The life of a samurai is often considered a noble and respected one, but reading Musui's story will show you that there are always exceptions. This autobiography offers a unique glimpse into what would be a other wise unheard of life. Katsu Kokichi (Musui's younger name) wrote a biography of his life, but not as a work of literature. HE wrote this as a guide to his children, a guide on how not to live one's life. And considering how his son Rintaro turned out, it may have worked.

Early on in the book you get a sharp look at what kind of person Kokichi is. This made for a quite entertaining read due to the fact that Kokich led quite and interesting and perilous life. Hitting other kids with rocks, running away from home, and stealing money from family made up a substantial part of Kokich life.

It got so bad that at one point his family was forced to lock him in a cage for three years - some timeout. Aside from all the fighting and mischief, I found the most interesting part of this book was the times during which Kokich had run away from home. It was interesting to see the interaction Kokich had with the people he met during his travel and the measures that he took to stay alive and fed.

Overall I found the book enjoyable and easy to read. Being that it was an autobiography, I really enjoyed the perspective and insight on Kokichi's life that it offered.
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4.0 out of 5 stars For school, August 1, 2014
By 
Denise (saint helens, oregon, United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Musui's Story: The Autobiography of a Tokugawa Samurai (Paperback)
I always feel weird reviewing schoolbooks, but since I think everything deserves some sort of opinion - here goes. This book was for my History of Korea and Japan class and was one of those "choose from a list" type of choices. I thought the book was decent. The book wasn't fascinating, but it did keep my interest. Whether or not I'd recommend it is really a personal choice. Did I think it was good for school? - Yes. Would I want it for a personal read? - Probably not. Does this mean its horrible writing? - I don't think so. It's just not to my taste.
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Musui's Story: The Autobiography of a Tokugawa Samurai
Musui's Story: The Autobiography of a Tokugawa Samurai by Kokichi Katsu (Paperback - July 1, 1991)
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