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Useful Notes / Miyamoto Musashi

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Miyamoto Musashi (1584? - June 13, 1645) was probably the most famous Japanese swordsman in history, particularly outside Japan.

Musashi was born Shinmen Bennosuke, the son of a low-ranking samurai named Munisai or Muninosuke, whose real surname was Hirata but had been bestowed his feudal lord's surname. Sometime later his father renamed him Harunobu. He later adopted the personal names Takezo and Musashi (both alternate renderings of the same kanji), and the surname Miyamoto after his birthplace and home village. Posthumously or perhaps in his old age, he was also known as Genshin Niten, "Genshin" and "Harunobu" being alternate readings of the same kanji as well. He also claimed descent from the Fujiwara clan, as shown by his Overly Long Name in the self-authored The Book of Five Rings which incorporate most of these names.

Musashi fought and won his first duel at the age of 13, and by the age of 16 he left his village to wander Japan and develop his fighting skills. After being on the losing side of the Battle of Sekigahara, he eventually made his way to Kyoto, where he began a series of duels with that city's Yoshioka school. He was reportedly victorious in at least 60 duels during his lifetime, and by most accounts - including his own - was undefeated in all his duels. In one duel, Musashi is said to have been ambushed by most of the Yoshioka school's students at once, and defeated them all. Another duel prompted him to develop a Dual Wielding sword style, known as Niten Ichi-ryu ("Two Heavens As One" style), arguably developed from the preexisting Enemi-ryu ("Circling Bright-style"). However, his most famous duel was the one on Ganryū Island with Sasaki Kojiro, whom Musashi killed with a single blow with a bokken (wooden sword) that he carved from an oar on the boat ride to the island where the duel took place (the day of which he overslept and arrived over an hour late).note 

After his duel with Sasaki Kojiro, Musashi retired from dueling and for a time became a strategist for hire. After several more years of wandering, he was given a ministerial position and became a Warrior Poet, as well as an accomplished calligrapher and painter. It was also during this period that he wrote his famous Book of Five Rings. After his death in 1645, he was often considered a Kensei ("sword-saint").

Musashi is well known for his strategic brilliance. One of his most famous strategies (which could even be considered his trademark) was his tendency to show up rather late to scheduled duels in order to upset his opponents, resulting in them not being able to fight at their best. In his final duel with Kojiro, it is speculated by some people that Musashi won the duel before he showed up. By timing his arrival so that he was not only late (infuriating Kojiro and taking the edge off his skill) but also so that upon finishing his duel he would leave as the tide was going out, he made a swift escape from Kojiro's followers and supporters who might have chased after him to avenge Kojiro's defeat.

Contrary to popular belief, Musashi did not die in a great battle. He died peacefully of thoracic cancer at his home at the age of 61 - a good age considering the times.

Interestingly, some accounts describe him as a rather unkempt man (these claimed he didn't bathe often due to not wanting to be vulnerable) whose looks didn't age well, and the classic depiction of him with nearly blue hair might be a reference to hair dye. However, considering how hard it would be to maintain a position as a samurainote  and never look presentable means that this is probably a myth.

Compare Yagyu Jubei. Do not confuse with that guy from Nintendo.

References to Musashi appear in the following works:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Getter Robo — One of the heroes is named Musashi Tomoe and he's a talented martial artist.
    • Though given the name of the other Getter-3 pilot, Benkei Kurama, it's likely that his name was intended as a reference to the warrior-monk Benkei Musashibō.
  • Pokémon: The Series — In the original Japanese version, Jessie and James are named Musashi and Kojiro, with Musashi being Jessie.
    • Also, Jessie/Musashi's mother (who was also a Team Rocket agent) is named Miyamoto, according to the CD drama version of Mewtwo's Birth.
  • Various adaptations of the novel Makai Tenshō, including the 90s OVA series Ninja Resurrection which took elements from the 80s manga version by Ken Ishikawa.
  • Cowboy Bebop — Referenced in one episode where the cowboy expy of Spike decides to be a samurai instead.
  • Samurai Champloo — An old man claims to be Musashi in one episode, well over 200 years after Musashi died. He was fairly obviously jesting, however. Also worth noting is Jin's design, which slightly resembles Musashi's.
  • Shura no Toki — Musashi is a major character in the first Story Arc of the series, and mentioned in the second.
  • Yaiba — A really old, really short Musashi is Yaiba's mentor.
  • Urusei Yatsura — One entire episode is devoted to sending up the Musashi story.
  • In an episode of Full Metal Panic!, Tessa challenges Mao to an Arm Slave duel. Because she is a complete klutz and needs all the help she can get, she shows up late to the duel; Mao's irritation leads Kurz, who is spectating, to ask if she's ever heard of Musashi.
  • Gintama has a Musashi-like person, an balding old man dressed in a blue jacket, yellow cap, white fundoshi and practically nothing else. He lives in a cart which he calls "My Sweet Home". Prone to saying fairly decent things on occasion such as "we eat when we can".
  • Then, of course, there's the infamous Musashi Gundoh... where a young Musashi fights demons using two pistols.
  • Eyeshield 21: The Devilbat's kicker is nicknamed Musashi and his rival is a man named Sasaki.
  • Vagabond, a manga adaptation of the Yoshikawa novel by Takehiko Inoue (also author and artist of Slam Dunk), albeit with notable differences in characters' backgrounds, events and personalities.
    • The most striking character change would be that this Sasaki Kojirō is deaf, mute, and has a generally childish attitude... not to mention has had his "adoptive mother" kick multiple girls out of his bed. (Despite this, when she breaks up the first Musashi vs. Kojirō encounter — over Kojirō trying to bisect Musashi's snowman with a tree branch — due to dinner time, he's happy to give her a piggyback ride back into the house.)
    • As for events? When Musashi tries to put the feud with the Yoshioka behind him after killing both the dojo head Seijurō and his younger brother Denshichirō, the new head is not the young Genjirō (in the novel Musashi charged through the Yoshioka ranks in a surprise attack to take out this last head) but rather the "third brother" Ueda Ryohei who plans to have all seventy Yoshioka men jump Musashi at Ichijōji. When Musashi finds out he at first does the smart thing and leaves the capital... only to run back down the mountain, charge into their midst, and he slaughters them all.
  • In Real Bout High School, Ryoko is challenged to a duel by Azumi, who then shows up late, leading one of the spectators to comment that Azumi is playing the same trick as Musashi.
  • Sailor Moon, Episode 139: the villain fakes being a great sword fighter, of the “Miyamoto Takezo” style. When he’s informed that the name is really Miyamoto Musashi, he complains that there should have been furigana, giving the correct reading of the kanji name.
  • Episode 55 of the first Yatterman series has the heroes meet an expy of Musashi, depicted as a confident, lazy middle-aged man who's confident he will win his duel against Kojiro's expy so that he doesn't even train. He shows up wielding his trademark giant oar, but because of the Doronbo Gang's interference (and the Yatterman secretly adding weight to his sword) he's tricked by Kojiro's hypontizing sword and defeated. However, he takes it in strides and decides to train again, this time seriously and with Kojiro.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds, Mizoguchi uses a samurai themed deck. Some of his card's illustrations show Kojiro and Musashi's famous duel on them.
  • Baki the Grappler: The fourth series, Baki Dou, revolves around Miyamoto Musashi. Tokugawa, the rich proprietor of the Korakuen Arena, brings Musashi back to life in the modern day, with the help of advanced biological technology and a spirit medium. He does it mostly out of curiosity about how would Musashi fare against modern-day martial artists. It turns out to be a bad idea, since Musashi turns out to be very powerful indeed, and — in accordance with the cruel mores of his day — has no qualms about killing his opponents.

    Card Games 
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Nisashi, a member of the Six Samurai, might be a reference to Miyamoto Musashi; a master swordsman well known for his Niten Style (2 sword combat style). Both the name and two swords are reminiscent of Musashi, and his appearance in Six Style - Dual Wield reinforces this reference.

    Comic Books 
  • The hero and title character of Usagi Yojimbo is Miyamoto Usagi, an anthropomorphic rabbit samurai. According to interviews, his creator was developing a comic series based on the life of Miyamoto Musashi when he happened to doodle a rabbit with its ears tied up in a samurai-style topknot. Liking the image, he retooled the idea into an original character and a world of cartoon animals, and the rest was history.
  • According to one limited series, Wolverine learned to be a Ninja from a master who once confronted Musashi — and both of them backed down, realizing neither could win.
  • A young Musashi is featured in the eight issue of Lilith, trying to help the time-traveling protagonist... And continuously screwing up due having little idea of what's actually happening. He's still an absolute beast on the battlefield, as he proves when he kills Kobayakawa Hideaki after slashing his way through three bodyguards after having already lost a thumb and finding himself unable to properly wield his sword-and not knowing Lilith needed to kill him personally. In the altered timeline, he becomes a Buddhist monk, building a sanctuary around Lilith's sleeping form and guarding her until his death.
  • In The Avengers (Jason Aaron), Mushashi appears in a montage of Marvel's most long running Legacy Characters, as the Samurai of Vengeance.

  • Hiroshi Inagaki's "Samurai Trilogy", based on Eiji Yoshikawa's novel and starring Toshiro Mifune as Musashi:
  • Tomu Uchida's five-part Miyamoto Musashi series, also called the Zen and Sword series, is also based on the Yoshikawa novel. Here, Musashi is played by Kinnosuke Nakamura, and is a much more tormented and conflicted character than Mifune's Musashi was.
  • Seven Samurai — Kikuchiyo (also played by Toshiro Mifune) resembles Musashi in his youth, when he was still Takezo, while Kyuzo resembles Musashi near the end of his dueling career. The Single-Stroke Battle between Kyuzo and an unnamed opponent early in the film was in fact inspired by one of Musashi's duels.
  • Samurai Reincarnation (1981) and Samurai Resurrection (2003), both being adaptations of Makai Tenshō.
  • Aragami.
  • Crazy Samurai: 400 vs 1 is about Musashi's duel at Ichijoji Temple, or rather Musashi's efforts to fight his way out of Ichijoji Temple after the duel, as he kills the child master of the Yoshioka School in the first fifteen minutes.

  • The Book of Five Rings, of course.
  • Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa. This has been adapted for other media several times, as seen below.
  • Musashi is one of the villains of the influential 1967 fantasy novel Makai Tenshō (Hell Resurrection), which features various resurrected historical figures like him and Amakusa Shirou who are magically summoned together and involved in a plot to overthrow the Tokugawa Shogunate, with the resurrected Yagyu Jubei alone standing against them. It has a number of manga, anime and live-action adaptations and is an acknowledged influence on franchises such as Fate and Samurai Shodown, where Musashi and other historical figures appear in some form to butt heads, as themselves or through stand-ins.
  • In the Ciaphas Cain, HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!!! novel Duty Calls, Musashi is part of a two for one reference when Cain (a famously skilled swordsman) briefly thinks of his old sword instructor, Miyamoto De Bergerac
  • He appears as an immortal human in The Necromancer, the fourth book in The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel.
  • Time Machine 3: Sword of the Samurai, a time traveling choose your own adventure-style book where you have the objective of acquiring one of Musashi's swords and returning to the present with it. Get to the end and Musashi will entrust you enough to give you a bokken of his, noting that he's used the wooden blade far more than any real sword for much of the later half of his life, so it feels right for you to take that one.
  • An expy of Musashi, Masamoto Takeshi, appears in the Young Samurai series as the founder of the Niten Ichi-Ryū school and Jack's adopted guardian.
  • A highly fictionalised Musashi is the center of two novels by David Kirk, Child Of Vengeance and Sword of Honour, set before and after the Battle of Sekigahara respectively.
  • Incarnations of Immortality: In "Wielding a Red Sword", Mym finds a copy of The Book of Five Rings. It helps him form strategies in both war and life and he occasionally thanks Musashi for writing it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Heroes — The character name Takezo Kensei is a Shout-Out to Musashi. (Takezō is an alternate pronunciation of the kanji for Musashi. In the Yoshikawa novel, Shinmen Takezō becomes "Musashi of Miyamoto village," hence the name.)
  • The NHK taiga (an annual, weekly historical period drama) for 2003 was MUSASHI, a generally faithful adaptation of the Yoshikawa novel.
  • In Kamen Rider Ghost, the second form that Takeru gains is based on Musashi. In this form, Takeru wields two swords.



    Video Games 
  • Brave Fencer Musashi and its sequel Musashi Samurai Legend. Both of them take his story very — very loosely; the former goes for charming and light Fun Size, the latter goes for attitude and good dose of Tetsuya Nomura style.
    • While he doesn't appear in person, this incarnation of Musashi is heavily implied to be connected to a different Square series: Bravely Default. The sequel, Bravely Second, allows players to obtain a staff named "Musashi's Oar." The weapon's description says that Musashi hails from Wa (an ancient island nation that vanished centuries ago; note that Wa is an old name for Japan), with the final sentence of the entry reading as follows: "No record remains of his death, but it is said that he was summoned to be a hero for another world." Make of that what you will.
    • This version, by the way, is voiced by Rica Matsumoto (Brave Fencer) and Yuki Kaida (Samurai Legend).
  • Musashi also appears in Dragalia Lost as a 4* Wind Blade unit. He comes to the Halidom seeking a challenge. He carries a second sword on him, but refuses to use it since it takes the fun out of battles unless it's an utter life or death situation.
  • Samurai Warriors 2 and Warriors Orochi (a crossover with the Dynasty Warriors franchise). Appropriately, here he was specifically chosen to be THE premiere swordsman of the games he appeared in and true to form, he is universally considered the best in the game for that weapon. His moveset homages the notes he writes about form and technique in his book with little flash and very direct motions save for a leaping strike and his jump attack.
    • Here, he's voiced by Hidehiko Kaneko.
  • The Last Blade features a zombified version of Musashi (Musashi Akatsuki, which roughly translates to "The Risen Musashi") as a sub-boss, reanimated by Big Bad Shinnosuke Kagami and forced to serve as his bodyguard. Here, he's voiced by Franky Nakamura.
  • Samurai Shodown's Haohmaru is a direct Shout-Out to Musashi, just like Ukyō Tachibana is one to Kojiro.
  • Onimusha features Musashi in varying capacities.
    • He never appeared in the mainline games, but he did appear in the unorthodox fighting game spinoff Onimusha Blade Warriors. His appearance is counted as non-canon.
    • He's the main protagonist of the animated adaptation, which ditched his more generic Blade Warriors look and made him look like Toshiro Mifune.
  • In Live A Live's Ninja chapter, Ode Iou summons Musashi's ghost (this being the Bakumatsu era, several centuries after Musashi's death) to fight Oboro, calling him the greatest swordsman of all time. If you fight him instead of avoiding him, he's not only extremely powerful, but he also turns out to be the least evil boss in the chapter. He just wants to fight you to see how strong a ninja you are.
  • Sengoku Basara treats him with less respect than most other franchises, depicting him as a bratty teenager who, while strong, is incredibly stupid and arrogant, with many foul habits and no fighting technique.
  • Heishiro Mitsurugi of the Soul series is based almost entirely on Musashi.
    • Nightmare's joke weapon in Soulcalibur II, the Galley Oar, is a wooden oar with the description "Perhaps it was modified by someone who heard the legend of the Japanese swordsman who won a duel with an oar and decided to try it himself." In Soulcalibur III, it becomes Siegfried's joke weapon (as Siegfried was previously Nightmare), with its description reading "A warrior from the east used something like this, apparently."
  • Ryu Hayabusa, in the Xbox remake of Ninja Gaiden, can obtain a large wooden oar (complete with glowing kanji runes) named Unlabored Flawlessness as his nigh-impossible-to-get Ultimate Weapon.
    • Funnily enough you obtain it by upgrading a cheaply bought wooden sword for an enormous price. Bit of a role reversal from Musashi's famous duel (paddle > sword = sword > paddle).
  • Ryū ga Gotoku Kenzan!, the Like a Dragon game that never left Japan, has him as the playable protagonist and tells a fictionalized version of his life.
  • In the PS2/PS3 version of Tales of Symphonia, Lloyd can receive a title that grants him an outfit designed after Musashi's, while Kratos receives one based on Musashi's real life Rival, Kojiro Sasaki.
  • Cloud in Final Fantasy VII's signature huge, oar-shaped sword is a Shout-Out to Musashi. His rival Sephiroth wields a long but thin blade as a homage to Sasaki Kojiro.
  • Musashi the samurai is a playable character in Shining Force.
  • Musashi is the hero of Ganryu, a Platform Game for the Neo Geo, and its sequel.
  • In Fate/Grand Order, a Gender Flip version of Musashi is a Saber class Servant (voiced by Ayane Sakura). Interestingly, she's from an alternate universe, as when she meets the Servant versions of her contemporaries, she becomes upset and comments that they are completely different from the ones she knows. She's also boy-crazy and occasionally gets annoyed whenever she meets a Servant who has been Gender Flip into a girl, commenting that in her home universe, they were a boy she could potentially date. "Occasionally" because Musashi also likes the ladies (fun fact: in Japanese the idiom "wielding two swords", as she literally does, is comparable to "swinging both ways" in English). Being a youthful adult, she represents the "drifting ronin" aspect of Musashi's life, as despite being a master duelist she's often in the red when it comes to food or money (and quickly blows whatever money she does earn on udon and alcohol). Her swordsmanship is described as an embodiment of "Zero" because it is meant to give the battle one outcome so her opponent has a zero percent chance of victory. Parts of the Shimousa chapter (more or less a Whole-Plot Reference to Makai Tenshō) shows that world's Musashi waiting in a cave to have his fight against Kojirou while thinking about his past, having been reduced to a terminally ill old man. After Kojirou comes to assure him that he was a great swordsman and that he already had a battle with the female Musashi, he is able to pass on in peace. She later has a Literal Split Personality where the competitive side of her splits off to become Tenma Musashi and the rest becomes a Berserker class Servant. This Berserker is crazy in that she claims her name is Miyamoto Iori (Musashi's adopted son) and that she is American. She wears a swimsuit and later a Flag Bikini / Samurai Cowboy combo, and wields firearms as well as swords.
  • In Nocturne: Rebirth, the first level reset book is The Book of Five Rings.
  • A late-game side mission in Nioh (which shares continuity with the aforementioned Ninja Gaiden) called "Master of the Twin Blades" sees a still green Musashi stranded after The Battle of Sekigahara, facing off with scores of Yōkai until William arrives at the behest of Ashikaga Yoshiteru to back the kid up. While he introduces himself to William as Musashi after they're in the clear, the headband he presents as a token of thanks is known as "Takezo's Headband" in reference to the name he allegedly went by in his youth. "The Grand Tournament", another side mission accessible after clearing the main story of the Bloodshed's End DLC expansion, ups the ante by featuring Musashi as the final opponent in a 100-man bout — alongside Kojiro.
  • The Battle Cats has two units based on him. The first, Miyamoku Musashi, is a movie star that is possessed by a samurai ghost cat that you get after beating the stories of legend stage "Muliversal studios" who takes inspiration from him as evidenced by his name and his appearance in his True Form (referencing his Dual Wielding). The second is the Legend Rare of the "Sengoku Wargods Vajiras" who is game’s depiction of him with Dual Wielding right of the bat.
  • The Edge from Furi is an Expy of Musashi. He is dressed as a samurai and wields two swords, only to switch them out for an oar in his second phase. He is also a Glass Cannon, able to take over a third of the Stranger's health in one hit, much like Musashi was said to beat opponents with a single blow.
  • Winter Troupe's fifth play in A3 has Tasuku acting as Musashi. Near the end of the play he has a duel with Sasaki Kojiro, played by Guy, at Ganryū Island and defeats him. The theme for this play is also titled Dokkoudou, a reference to one of Musashi's works.
  • Honor of Kings: While the roster is largely based on Chinese figures from history and myth, Musashi is added as one of the few heroes representing Japan, where he's once again a dual-wielding swordsman. When the game collaborated with Samurai Shodown, Musashi had the honor to receive the skin of the main character largely inspired by him, Haohmaru. In the international counterpart Arena of Valor, however, Musashi does not have someone who inherits his whole kit, the only thing that was originally his was the ultimate skill of Allain... which lasts until his redesign which granted him a new ultimate.

  • Hark! A Vagrant gives us a slightly different take on his battle with Kojiro. Fairly accurate, actually, apart from omitting the whole "sharpening the boat oar into a bokken" thing. (The author admits in The Rant that she knew about that detail but deliberately excluded it, on grounds that him bringing a whole oar instead looks funnier.) Essentially, he beat Kojiro in the head with a heavy piece of wood with a wedged end — kind of like the equivalent of whacking him with a baseball bat.

    Web Video 
  • Puppet History's second season has the episode "The World's Greatest/Rudest Samurai," during which the Professor gives a summary of his greatest exploits, while that episode's guests try and earn history points by answering multiple choice questions about him.