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Musui's Story: The Autobiography of a Tokugawa Samurai
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Musui's Story: The Autobiography of a Tokugawa Samurai

3.48  ·  Rating Details ·  493 Ratings  ·  29 Reviews
A series of picaresque adventures set against the backdrop of a Japan still closed off from the rest of the world, Musui's Story recounts the escapades of samurai Katsu Kokichi. As it depicts Katsu stealing, brawling, indulging in the pleasure quarters, and getting the better of authorities, it also provides a refreshing perspective on Japanese society, customs, economy, a ...more
Paperback, 174 pages
Published July 1st 1988 by University of Arizona Press (first published 1988)
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May 15, 2014 umberto rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, japan
This fine paperback did not seem readable to me when I leafed through it a few months ago but I decided to read it because I’ve never read such an autobiography written by a Tokugawa samurai before. Written in 1843 during his retirement, this nine-topic account would help its readers know more or better understand how the author lived or worked as well as what the people/places looked like in Edo (Now Tokyo) 170 years ago. Interestingly, there is an anonymous 4-line poem facing the Prologue page ...more
Nek0 Neha (BiblioNyan)
Musui's Story is an autobiography about a samurai during the Tokugawa era in Japan. To be perfectly honest, I found the re-telling of Katsu Kokichi's life to be rather bland and unnecessary for a publication. He glorifies his lack of worth ethic and also his lack of family honor all the while making himself sound like a saint at times.

The novel is a good representation of what life was like during the era, however. It shows the period for the simplicity and normalcy that it was. Media has made t
Apr 04, 2013 Glen rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book immensely, not only because of the personal insights it gives one of the everyday life of an Edo samurai during the closing years of the Edo Period, but because dispels the myth of the "honorable" samurai so often sold to the West through book and film.

Most samurai living in Edo, and most other castle towns of the period (although probably not as dishonest as Katsu Kokichi on the whole), had very little to do but march to the capital, spend money and fight off debt, and this
Jan 08, 2009 Marie rated it it was amazing
A wonderful and funny book, written in the "readers, don't do things like I did" vein. Very revealing about what life was like for lower ranking samurai in the Tokugawa era.
Oct 24, 2016 Peter rated it liked it
A fun little romp through Tokugawa Japan on the eve of the Meji Restoration. The self aggrandizing autobiography of a clearly unrepentant Kokichi Katsu remains amusing throughout and never overstays its welcome. This isn't a literary masterwork or even a complete narrative, but it makes for an easy historical read and provides a window into the mentality of an era long past.

Our protagonist is a complete bastard, if a charming one. He's a Japanese wiseguy, like the characters you find in Goodfell
Sam Wilkinson
Oct 15, 2016 Sam Wilkinson rated it really liked it
Shelves: japan
Very interesting firsthand account life in Japan during the Tokugawa era. Written by a samurai in the 19th century, this book contains wise words from a man who learned a lot in his exciting life. Kokichi makes many mistakes during his life. He embarrasses and wrongs his family. But he understands his mistakes and urges his descendants who read it to "read this record carefully and savor its meaning." (157)

Anyone that wants a primary source's account on Tokugawa Japan and samurai life should rea
Apr 02, 2015 Marcus rated it liked it
A rather interesting read and not quite what I expected; Musui’s story doesn’t relate recollections of grand military campaigns or platitudes of honor and martial prowess. Instead the Autobiography of a Tokugawa Samurai gives us a candid view into the life of a roguish anti-hero. The ever scheming protagonist gleefully recollects adventures in Edo (modern Tokyo) unbecoming the traditional conceptions most of us have of regarding the samurai. The code of bushido states something to the effect of ...more
Dec 28, 2013 Zachary rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone
Shelves: japanese-memior
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 backg ...more
Nov 13, 2009 Jeff rated it liked it
Recommends it for: People interested in Samurai or History
Recommended to Jeff by: Dr. Aaron Skabelund
Shelves: textbooks, nonfiction
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Apr 10, 2016 Sebastian rated it liked it
Shelves: owned
Literariamente es una nulidad. El autor no tenía noción de trama ni sabía desarrollar personajes. Es un anecdotario de la oveja negra de una familia de clase samurai a fines del shogunato Tokugawa: no es este el Japón medieval de guerreros a caballo y sangrientas intrigas, sino el de un país aislado y pacificado, con preocupaciones parecidas a las de personajes de Balzac: rentas, deudas, desaveniencias familiares, la búsqueda de cargos y sinecuras. El atractivo de este libro está en la vulgarida ...more
Killer of Dreams
Sep 27, 2016 Killer of Dreams rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography
The historical significance of this book is exemplary. It details the lifestyle of a low ranking samurai in the Tokugawa period and thus is a very great piece on samurai lifestyle during this time.

The book is split into different periods in Katsu's life and those periods are further split into tangled tales. Such tails often seem to provide little enjoyment and few are noteworthy. It is an autobiography so of course it won't be as interesting as a fictional book but the meandering of the plot an
Nov 19, 2010 Ginger rated it really liked it
Without attempting an in depth review of this book I will say that this is a super easy read, humorous and shallow(not in a bad way),and yet extremely important. Yes, haha it really is an important work because it boldly slaps you in the face with the shift in the relationship between peasants and the samurai. Not only does it shock you with the baseness of its story, but the preface and last warnings of an old man are the purest ideals of the Tokugawa era, haha funny coming from the man who did ...more
Jan 26, 2016 Zach rated it liked it
This book, though dry at times, is an interesting depiction of a man raised in moderate comfort in Edo during the Tokugawa period and his rambling adventures. He talks about his time as a young beggar, a promising swordsman, a neighborhood boss complete with protection racket, intercessor for debtors, and a banner man to the shogunate. If you are interested in Japanese history from the view of an ordinary man and can get through some dry politics and endless names of people being brought up then ...more
Andrew Stohler
Sep 11, 2015 Andrew Stohler rated it it was amazing
I just read this memoir for a Japanese History class and this book is amazing. It is a cautionary tale of a Samurai that was constantly getting in trouble or getting his friends out of trouble. This was such a fun read! This is not the kind of story you normally hear about the Tokugawa era in Japanese history. The story of a low ranking Samurai that never received a respectable Job in his shoguns' court but was always hatching schemes to make money if it was as a loan shark or a swords dealer.
Aug 28, 2011 Kai rated it really liked it
An excellent translation of a samurai diary which highlights the differences between the idealized view of the samurai and the reality of life as a samurai at the end of the Tokugawa period. Musui challenges the view of the samurai as a wealthy, honorable man, instead spending all of his money in the pleasure quarters and cheating others to pay his debts.
Rebekah Lewis
This is a story of a Tokugawa samurai... Dry... dry... dry...

Really dry. If this was fiction, I'd give it two stars. It gets 3 because I think it's unfair to be too critical of a life lead and left to us.

Read this book if you're into Samurai culture and want to see how the ordinary displaced warrior could have lived.
Tariq Beshty
Jul 27, 2007 Tariq Beshty rated it it was amazing
"There can't be many in the world as foolish as I am. So let me say this to my grandchildren and great grandchildren--listen to what I have to say, and may the scoundrels and fools, especially, take my story as a lesson."
Nov 17, 2007 Karie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all my Ninjas
I love this book! The samurai Musui tells the tales of all his rascally misdeeds and exploits (which he obviously take some pride in) while advising the younger generation not to do what he did (even though he makes it sound like a hell of a lot of fun!)
Feb 07, 2013 Nick rated it liked it
This book takes all the romanticized images and ideas of the samurai that prevail today beats the heck out of them and spits out the hardcore gritty reality in a cynically humorous way. makes for a surprisingly easy and quick read.
Aaron Crossen
May 07, 2007 Aaron Crossen rated it liked it
Shelves: memoirs
All I remember from reading this book years back is how ruthless this guy had to be just to put rice in his bowl. Kind of evens out the typical assumption of unswavering loyalty and such to include the...niceities of samurai life.
Apr 28, 2008 Jim rated it really liked it
The is a first hand account by a Samurai when all the wars had ended and the Emperor put them in charge of their own states.
Feb 24, 2015 Debbie rated it really liked it
An interesting read though the writer didn't put himself forward as a very sympathetic person. A nice look at Tokugawa Japan, though, and the samurai class.
Zach Opsitnick
Oct 01, 2014 Zach Opsitnick rated it really liked it
A very fascinating read and an open window into a part of Japan's history from the first person perspective.
Nov 08, 2008 Matthew rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
If you ever wanted to know what the day to day life of a typical samurai in Tokugawa period Japan was like... here is your very readable and good-humored source.
Ilana rated it it was amazing
Mar 05, 2009
ケイシ rated it really liked it
Aug 03, 2014
John Dishon
John Dishon rated it really liked it
Feb 22, 2011
Chelsea Lohr
Chelsea Lohr rated it liked it
Jun 15, 2015
Heather rated it liked it
Sep 16, 2007
Brenna rated it really liked it
Dec 28, 2011
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