Miyamoto Musashi was a famous Japanese samurai of the early Edo period (1603-1868). In recent times, he is also recognized as a great thinker, who left the writings on art of living well and cherished mottos.
Musashi was born in 1584. At the age of 13, he fought a duel for the first time and won. Then he left his village and spent his time traveling and honing his skills in swordsmanship. During this time, he engagrd in as many as 60 duels, in which he never lost. His most famous duel is the duel with Sasaki Kojiro.
His swordsmanship was characterized by practical strategics. He was always seeking for the meaning of life through swordsmanship. Musashi created and perfected a two-sword kenjutsu technique called Niten-Iichi (meaning “two heavens as one”).
Musashi’s cleverness in the use of hands and his acute sensitivity brought him to the field of at, sculpture, calligraphy, and handicraft. Records also show that he had skills in town planning and landscape architecture.
Just before his death, he completed “Go Rin no Sho (the Book of Five Rings),” a book on strategy, tactics, and philosophy, which is still studied today.
The Shimonoseki Channel Festival is held annually in March in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture. This festival is associated with the Battle of Dan-no-ura, and many events are held to commemorate it.
The Sentei Festival is one such event worth noting. It features a parade of women dressed in luxurious costume, who visit the Akama Shrine once a year on the anniversary of Emperor Antoku's death. This event was begun by court ladies of the Taira Clan who had survived the Battle of Dan-no-ura. Later, the courtesans of the pleasure quarters took over this event. These historical customs are the origin of today's Jourou Douchu (courtesan's parade).
Other events around Shimonoseki include the exciting Gen-pei Gassen (Genji and Taira Clan Battle), which features a display of over 200 boats on water, with people dressed as warriors. Another event is the Ganryu Island Festival, which reproduces the scene of the Ganryu Island Duel between Miyamoto Musashi and Sasaki Kojiro.
Sanomo Shrine is known as a place associated with Miyamoto Musashi, the greatest samurai who had never been defeated. The shrine is located next to Musashi’s birth place in Mimasaka City, Okayama Pref. Spending his boyhood days in Miyamoto Village (present-day Mimasaka City), Musashi had repeated frictions with his father and finally declared the break of the tie between father and son. He went to his mother’s home town but was brought back again to his father’s house later. There he carried out a rampage to vent his loneliness and anger, called “Akuzo (a bad boy)” by the villagers. Though being such a bad boy, he got along well only with his close friend, Motoida Matahachi and his fiancée, Otsu, with whom Musashi ran around fields and mountains in his home land. Sanomo Shrine is said to have been the place where Musashi was inspired to create Nito-ryu, the two-sworded fighting style when he observed drum movements of the shrine priest. Two drum sticks create one drum beat! Can you imagine the flash of inspiration the great swordman had at this moment?
There are several theories about Miyamoto Musashi’s birth place but one of the most dominant one is that he was born in Miyamoto Village in present-day Nimasaka City. Here is an area called “Musashi no Sato (Musashi’s village),” in which many monuments and remains pertaining to Musashi are located including his birthplace, his grave, and Sanomo Shrine. Next to the stone monument of his birthplace stands the house of Hirao household, into which Musashi’s elder sister, Ogin, moved after her marriage. The house was the largest thatched roof house in the town at that time. The present building was restored as it were in the Edo period. In 1600, when Musashi set out for a journey to perfect his skill in the martial arts at the age of 17, he dropped in at this house to leave his household articles, family record, lance, and jutte (an ancient weapon) with his sister and her husband. Later Ogin’s second son, Kagesada, succeeded Musashi’s household and lived in this house. The house is still lived by the descendants of Hirao family. It is a house with a distinguished history of 280 years.
There are several opinions about Miyamoto Musashi’s birthplace; the theory that he was born in Harima province (present-day the southwestern part of Hyogo Pref.) is a widely accepted historical fact, but in his novel “Miyamoto Musashi,” Eiji Yoshikawa writes he was born in Miyamoto Village in Mimasaka province (present-day Mimasaka City, Hyogo Pref.). In the city of Mimasaka is an area called “Musashi no Sato (Musashi’s village),” in which many monuments and remains pertaining to Musashi are located including his birthplace, his grave, and Sanomo Shrine. Musashi spent his early life in this house until he left the village at the age of 17, having high hopes of success in life. It used to be a large house with a thatched roof, but was destroyed by fire in 1942. In the reconstruction work, the roof was changed to the present tiled roof, but the Daikoku-bashira (the main structural post) was located at the same place as it was, which reminds us of the old times.
The Ichijo Waterfall is located in the deep most of Ichijo Valley in the east of Fukui City. It is said to be found by Taicho-Daishi in the Nara period (710-794). This waterfall, which is believed to be a holly place where deities reside, comes in at a total of 12 meters in height with water running valiantly down to the bottom. According to a folk story, Sasaki Kojiro, a master swordsman who had the most famous duel with Miyamoto Musashi, got his training at this waterfall and mastered his unique technique of “Tsubame Gaeshi” or “Turning Swallow Cut”. A sumo-wrestler, Herculean Hokkoku Heidayu, was also endowed with strength at this place. The waterfall is blessed with bounteous water all through the year. You can also enjoy surrounding cool air in summer as well as beautiful tints in autumn.