Musashi (novel)

Musashi (Japanese: 宮本武蔵, Hepburn: Miyamoto Musashi) is a Japanese epic novel written by Eiji Yoshikawa, about the life and deeds of legendary Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi.

US edition cover
AuthorEiji Yoshikawa
Original title宮本武蔵
TranslatorCharles S. Terry
Cover artistN. Ōrai
GenreEpic, historical novel, martial arts
PublisherAsahi Shimbun
Publication date
Published in English
Media typePrint (newspaper serial)
Pages984 (US hardback edition)
ISBN4-7700-1957-2 (US hardback edition)

The book follows Shinmen Takezō starting after the Battle of Sekigahara. It follows his life after the monk Takuan forces him to reinvent himself as Miyamoto Musashi. He wanders around Japan training young pupils, getting involved in feuds with samurai and martial arts schools, and finding his way through his romantic life.

It was originally released as a serial in the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun, between 1935 and 1939. It has been re-released in book format, most of which are collections of several volumes, which compile the many newspaper strips. With an estimated 120 million copies sold,[1] it is one of the best-selling book series in history.


It is a fictionalized account of the life of Miyamoto Musashi, author of The Book of Five Rings and arguably the most renowned Japanese swordsman who ever lived.

The novel has been translated into English by Charles S. Terry, with a foreword by Edwin O. Reischauer, published by Kodansha International under ISBN 4-7700-1957-2.

The long epic (over 900 pages, abridged, in the English version) comprises seven "books" detailing the exploits of Miyamoto Musashi, beginning just after the battle of Sekigahara, following his journeys and the many people who become important in his life, and leading up to his climactic duel with Sasaki Kojiro on Ganryujima (Ganryu or Funa Island). Kojiro's cruelty contrasts with Musashi's reflective and selfless nature. Musashi becomes famous during the course of the novel as he searches for both perfection in swordsmanship and in consciousness. Innovating Japanese swordsmanship, he invents the style of simultaneously wielding both the katana and the wakizashi, something unheard of at that time in Japanese history. Chance, as well as the characters' very different life decisions, give to the book a philosophical dimension that is revealed in its ending.

Table of Contents (Abridged Edition)Edit

Chapters per book

Book 1 — EarthEdit

  • 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

Book 2 — WaterEdit

  • The Yoshioka School
  • The Wheel of Fortune
  • Encounter and Retreat
  • The Water Sprite
  • A Spring Breeze
  • The Hōzōin
  • Hannya Plain
  • The Koyagyū Fief
  • The Peony
  • Jōtarō's Revenge
  • The Nightingales

Book 3 — FireEdit

  • Sasaki Kojirō
  • Reunion in Osaka
  • The Handsome Young Man
  • The Seashell of Forgetfulness
  • A Hero's Passing
  • The Drying Pole
  • Eagle Mountain
  • The Mayfly in Winter
  • The Pinwheel
  • The Flying Horse
  • The Butterfly in Winter
  • The Announcement
  • The Great Bridge at Gojō Avenue

Book 4 — WindEdit

  • The Withered Field
  • A Man of Parts
  • Too Many Kojirōs
  • The Younger Brother
  • A Mother's Love
  • The Urbane Craftsman
  • Reverberations in the Snow
  • The Elegant People
  • The Broken Lute
  • A Sickness of the Heart
  • The Scent of Aloeswood
  • The Gate
  • A Toast to the Morrow
  • The Death Trap
  • A Meeting in the Moonlight
  • Stray Geese
  • The Spreading Pine
  • An Offering for the Dead
  • A Drink of Milk
  • Entwining Branches
  • The Male and Female Waterfalls

Book 5 — SkyEdit

  • The Abduction
  • The Warrior of Kiso
  • Poisonous Fangs
  • A Maternal Warning
  • A One-Night Love Affair
  • A Gift of Money
  • A Cleansing Fire
  • Playing with Fire
  • A Cricket in the Grass
  • The Pioneers
  • Slaughter by the Riverside
  • Shavings
  • The Owl
  • A Plate of Loaches
  • Like Teacher, Like Pupil
  • Mountain Devils
  • First Planting
  • The Flies
  • The Soul Polisher
  • The Fox
  • An Urgent Letter
  • Filial Piety
  • Spring Shower in Red
  • A Block of Wood
  • The Deserted Prophet
  • The Talk of the Town

Book 6 — Sun and MoonEdit

  • A Chat with the Men
  • Buzzing Insects
  • The Eagle
  • Green Persimmons
  • Eyes
  • Four Sages with a Single Light
  • The Locust Tree
  • Tadaaki's Madness
  • The Poignancy of Things
  • Two Drumsticks
  • The Demon's Attendant
  • Brother Disciples
  • The Pomegranate
  • Land of Dreams
  • The Challenge
  • The Gateway to Glory
  • The Sound of Heaven

Book 7 — The Perfect LightEdit

  • The Runaway Ox
  • Hemp Seed
  • Sweepers and Salesmen
  • A Pear Blossom
  • The Port
  • The Writing Teacher
  • The Circle
  • Shikama Blue
  • The Mercy of Kannon
  • The Tides of Life
  • The Evening Boat
  • A Falcon and a Woman
  • Before the Thirteenth Day
  • At Daybreak
  • The Marriage
  • The Soul of the Deep

Release detailsEdit

  • Yoshikawa, Eiji (1935), Musashi (newspaper serial), Japan: Asahi Shimbun {{citation}}: |format= requires |url= (help).
  • ——— (July 1981), Musashi (hardcover), Trans. Charles S. Terry, United States: HarperCollins, ISBN 978-0-06-859851-0 {{citation}}: |format= requires |url= (help)
  • ——— (1993) [1981], Musashi (paperback), Trans. Charles S. Terry, Tokyo: Kodansha {{citation}}: |format= requires |url= (help).
  • ——— (May 1995), Musashi (hardcover), Trans. Charles S. Terry, Japan: Kodansha, ISBN 978-4-7700-1957-8 {{citation}}: |format= requires |url= (help).

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Way Of The Samurai, Path Of The Tedious". New York Times. 1981-09-13. Archived from the original on 2008-04-18. Retrieved 2021-03-13.