Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Musashi” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


(Musashi #Complete)

4.46  ·  Rating details ·  14,688 ratings  ·  995 reviews
The classic samurai novel about the real exploits of the most famous swordsman. Musashi is a novel in the best tradition of Japanese story telling. It is a living story, subtle and imaginative, teeming with memorable characters, many of them historical. Interweaving themes of unrequited love, misguided revenge, filial piety and absolute dedication to the Way of the Samurai ...more
Hardcover, 970 pages
Published July 14th 1995 by Kodansha International (first published 1935)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Musashi, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Dustin Dye I'd recommend Taiko first, as historically the events in Musashi follow those in Taiko. Musashi appears to have been written earlier, but the precedin…moreI'd recommend Taiko first, as historically the events in Musashi follow those in Taiko. Musashi appears to have been written earlier, but the preceding historical events would have been well-known to its Japanese audience, whereas foreigners might feel lost without the context. Both are stand-alone novels, however, and can be read, understood and enjoyed in any order.

I personally enjoyed Taiko the most, and would recommend that if you had to choose only one of them. I found it more epic and the translation was stronger. Taiko was highly edited from the Japanese original, which was sprawling and had a lot more subplots and minor characters than the better-focused English translation. Musashi is a full translation. Keep in mind both were serialized, and there are some problems in that format, which are more evident in Musashi. The book contains a few too many coincidences to completely suspend disbelief. This would have been less obvious to an audience reading it piece-by-piece in a newspaper than reading it consolidated in novel form with the ability to flip back. And while Yoshikawa remained amazingly consistent in the characters and subplots, no small feat for a story this size, some characters are dropped with no explanation (Musashi's sister), and he does have to do some backtracking at times when a certain detail from Musashi's past becomes important, but Yoshikawa had neglected to include it in earlier installments, so he has to elude to an episode that didn't happen in the book.

If you have to read anything first, The Heike Story is another good starting place. It is a well-known story in Japan, but Yoshikawa gives it a compelling twist by telling it from the point-of-view of its traditional villain (for that reason, the Japanese title literally translates to NEW Heike Story). The English translation actually came out before Yoshikawa had finished the Japanese version, so it is definitely not a complete translation, but that's OK, as it ends in a good spot. Heike's translation isn't as stong as Taiko or Musashi, however. You might also consider reading Shogun by James Clavell in between Taiko and Musashi as it is a fictionalized version of the events between the two novels (use Google to connect the fictional characters with their historical counterparts). But flip past the laughably bad romantic subplot.(less)
Norwegian Wood by Haruki MurakamiKafka on the Shore by Haruki MurakamiThe Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki MurakamiBattle Royale by Koushun Takami1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
Best Japanese Books
683 books — 2,875 voters
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur GoldenGone with the Wind by Margaret MitchellThe Pillars of the Earth by Ken FollettThe Book Thief by Markus ZusakThe Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
Best Historical Fiction
6,358 books — 25,886 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.46  · 
Rating details
 ·  14,688 ratings  ·  995 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Musashi
Aug 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: 16+
A breathtaking fictionalization of the life of one of the world's greatest warriors and renaissance men. Yoshikawa takes us on a mezmorizing voyage to a crossroads in Japanese history that changed all the rules and gave birth to a legend. The book opens in the year 1600 at the end of the infamous battle of Sekigahara, where the armies of east and western Japan met to decide who would govern: Toyotomi or Tokugawa. In the end to Tokugawa emerged victorious and the 150 year period of civil war cam ...more
Oct 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: historical
This is a quick read despite its length. The language is easy and there's plenty of action.

Unfortunately, I thought the characters are mostly two-dimensional at best, and the plot is sort of repetitive.

If you're interested in samurais and Japanese culture, give it a try.
Oct 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
wow...that is the first thing that came to mind when i finished this book. it is easily the best historical fiction i have ever read. it is also the largest and most difficult book i have ever read. it is very japanese therefore some of the names and places tend to get mixed up in the nearly 1000 page epic. however...that is the only negative i have after reading this book. it will go down as one of my favorite reads of all time. it focuses on the life (very dramatized by the fantastic eiji yosh ...more
Apr 18, 2012 rated it liked it
Perhaps my expectations were too high but I was a bit disappointed by this book. I am really interested in (traditional) Japanese culture and looked forward to reading Musashi. Although it is an entertaining read and I did gain some inspiration from it, I found it really missed the depth you'd expect from such a saga.

Apart from Musashi himself, all the other characters in the book are fairly one-dimensional and as a consequence, the story does not really seem to progress or unravel after the fir
26th book for 2019.

This much loved epic, which originally appeared as a series of Japanese newspaper installments in the 1930s, chronicles the rise of one of Japan's greatest samurai and swordsmen, Miyamoto Musashi.

Despite it's nearly 1000-page length, I found it a fun, quick(ish) read, which enriched my understanding of samurai warrior code and culture this grew out of. It has influenced numerous films and books relating to Japanese culture; even the final battle scene in Kill Bill 1 seems to
Sep 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
5 stars for sheer enjoyment and immersion in another time and culture. This book has easily landed on my favourites list. Despite its nearly thousand pages I was fully immersed in the story of Miyamoto Musashi and never felt like I was slogging through an enormous tome. To be fair the beginning is a little rough, but Eiji Yoshikawa does an excellent job at keeping things moving as we follow the famous ‘sword-saint’ of early Tokugawa-era Japan in his growth from a callow, bullying youth into a ma ...more
Mar 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I am a huge fan of the old Criterion Collection samurai movies and I loved Toshiro Mifune's portrayal of Musashi, so I thought I'd give this a read. I found it VERY slow at the beginning, but I powered through. It took me as long to read this as it did to read Don Quixote….coincidentally, Musashi lived at the same time as Cervantes, so it was interesting to compare what was going on in Japan in the time of Shakespeare and Cervantes.

The story is epic in scope and follows Musashi Myamoto's life
May 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics, historical
A great novel that reads easier than its length or age might make you believe (The epic sword fights didn't hurt, either). The only negative that I found was that it has "Walter Scott" syndrome, where the main (and thus most interesting) character disappears for long stretches of time throughout.
Jul 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is easily my favorite book. It's very long and translated from Japanese resulting in some rough spots, but nevertheless, I could not put this one down. I recommend this to anyone...well, anyone who loves sword fighting.
Aug 12, 2008 rated it did not like it
I didn't like this book. It consisted of boring parts, punctuated by parts where the main character and maybe other characters, would go do something really stupid because of their bizarre moral codes or lack thereof.

The book is old enough that the levels of sexism in it are absurd, and parts of it got me so annoyed that I was really distracted from the plot.

I suppose it's interesting to get a perspective on a VERY different culture, but half the time I couldn't fathom any conceivable logical
Jeremy Preacher
Jan 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
As a fan of epic fantasy, I was surprised by how much this was right in my wheelhouse, and I think this should be better-known among SF fans. It's a classic bildungsroman with epic battles, tragic romances, fun if somewhat archetypal characters, and a tremendous amount of cultural flavor and historical information.

It was published serially, and as a result is extremely episodic, which isn't a flaw precisely, although it does slow down the pacing and make it a trifle choppy. It's also got a bit o
Apr 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction-lit
I read this novel about four years ago. At the time, the teacher for whom I was doing a book report on this novel, thought I was insane for picking such a long and complex novel. I vaguely remember someone else in my class reading The Bourne Supremacy.

I would have this tied with I, Claudius for the best historical fiction I've yet to read. Telling the tale of Miyamoto Musashi, the sword-saint of Japan, it begins with his rural boyhood and ends with a final showdown between the great warrior and
Blake Brasher
Apr 30, 2013 rated it liked it
Mostly this book is like Pokemon. A young man wandered around the wilderness in his quest to be the greatest samurai/Pokemon master and runs into others who he does battle with to increase his power. He gains new techniques from kindly old masters and visits temples where he participates in more battles.

The story does start to be more engaging in about the last third of the book. You can tell that it was originally released serially and should probably be consumed with the attitude one has towa
Apr 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook, favorites

Brian Nishii is great! He really made the long journey come to life in the audio. I'm sure I only caught 1/3 of the references and things the story held because I'm not Japanese, but what I did grasp was pretty great and I can see why this is a classic. The movies only give a glimpse of the facets & ideas from the book. I'm glad I read it and I'm sure I'll read it again.

The story comes across as being very simple but it is the layers of common things that make up a complex whole.
There were portions of this novel that I really enjoyed, but other sections I found somewhat tedious. This is not because of a lack of action; on the contrary, there seems to be action in every single chapter. Rather it's because of the large number of poorly developed characters, settings, and side stories. Half the time, I found myself not caring.

About halfway through the book I learned it had been written and published in serialized format in a Japanese newspaper. This is why each chapter fee
Dec 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: worldliterature
An incredible, sprawling masterpiece... Yoshikawa tells the story of Japan's greatest swordsman, Miyamoto Musashi, in an awing bildungsroman that sees a young violent punk transformed into a masterful buddhist hero. Inspired the Hiroshi Inagaki Samurai films. Highly recommended.
Autumn Christian
An excellent book about the most famous swordsman of all time, Musashi. Closely follows his historical life, so many threads aren't always picked up in a normal narrative fashion. Thoroughly enjoyed all 1000 pages.
Martha Sockel
Aug 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: samurai, japan
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Miyamoto Musashi, which was one of several names of a very important figure in Japanese history, lived from the end of the sixteenth into the seventeenth century. He was a true renaissance man in that he was an exceptional strategist, swordsman and social philosopher who also painted, sculpted and wrote. I cannot think of a comparable figure from the West with the possible exception of Leonardo Da Vinci. He and Musashi were incredibly accomplished in a variety of areas but their emphases were cl ...more
Jun 17, 2010 rated it liked it
Yoshikawa was reccomended to me by my uncle, a Japanese History enthusiast. I have an active interest in Japanese culture and ritual, but not even a working understanding of their history. Taiko, the actual novel that was reccomended to me, has a very similar tone and feel as Musashi, but what really interested me in this book is that the politics of ancient Japan is the backdrop for the novel, as Musashi, a maturing Samurai, wanders through the Japanese countryside. Taiko is much more focused o ...more
Abhishek Anbazhagan
Jan 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
There are books that overwhelm you to such an extent that you are at a utter loss to explain how you feel after you have finished them.It is not that you are unable to pick the right words but you know that any words you choose will be in adequate to completely express how you feel.Let me still try,this book is going to have a strong bearing on the kind of person I turn out to be.As I shadowed Musashi through his wanderings and his education, I felt every emotion that coursed through his veins.I ...more
Joe Flynn
Apr 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Wonderful and immersive historical fiction based on the life of possibly the most famous Japanese swordsman.

An immature teenager at the pivotal battle of Sekigahara, we follow Musashi's life, love, strife, and development over the next decade or so.

What makes the book stand out as more than a well written and wonderfully translated adventure story is the interweaving of Japanese (particularly martial) culture and philosophy within the narrative. Musashi's quest, 'the way of the sword'  becomes e
Nicolay Hvidsten
This was a long read, but as some others have mentioned it didn't necessarily feel long. It did feel clumsy and clunky at times though, and while the writing was functional, it certainly never reached the heights of other authors of the same period like Fitzgerald or Steinbeck.

The story told is epic in scope, unfolding over a period of 12 years, following the exploits of legendary Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi from when he was nothing but a witless brute (named Takezo, written in the same
James Q. Golden
Dec 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Being an enormous fan of the manga Vagabond I decided to read Eiji Yoshikawa's version on Musashi, and I have to admit that story-wise the novel is way better than the manga. Of course, one can expect that when comparing a novel to a manga, but still, here the characters and story acquire so many different dimensions it's mind blowing. Adding to the fact that events aren't as exaggerated as in the manga (as the art usually does), this gives the story a much more real, much more serious vibe, act ...more
Apr 03, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: samurai, fiction, japan
Intimidated by its length for such a 7-book novel, I did not think I would finish reading this epic novel of a master samurai named Miyamoto Musashi (c. 1584-1645), one of the great Japanese swordsmen in 16th century Japan ( However, it is not simply a novel of ruthless, gory and god-like fights we might have read in the same genre or guessed from its brutal-looking cover, rather it is a classic samurai novel penned brilliantly by Eiji Yoshikawa since it ...more
Giedrius Padriezas
Amazing Japanese story about fighter's demeanor, patience, perseverance, rivalries, hard work, which always results in a pay off at a later time. Next to this, there is also love, which follows the characters in every move. Well written, hence, easy to read. Many gems of ideas in this one.

Hope to read Shogun soon, expectations are pretty high after this.
May 03, 2018 rated it did not like it
A collection of loathsome characters, each spinning around on their personal carousels across a thousand pages - reliving the same conflicts, falling to the same foes, chasing the same illusions. Here, a belligerent self-righteousness clashes repeatedly against saintly virtuousness, and I'm never satisfied with the outcome.
Jan 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: b-favorites
This fictionalized account of the life of the swordsman Miyamoto Musashi is epic in proportion and entertaining from start to finish.
Joseph L
Apr 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
When browsing Amazon one day, I was looking for books to get for reading. I am really into the genres of Samurai and Historical Japan, so when I came across this book, it caught my attention. I have heard of the famous ronin Miyamoto Musashi before in history and other works (Samurai Champloo for example) and I have always loved his story and the era he comes from. When I saw that there was a whole novel/epic (albeit fictional) about him from Japan, I got very excited and bought it immediately. ...more
Apr 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was recommended to me by an Aikido sensei and so I bought it - and it took me three years to finish. I'd read a bit before bed at night, then fall asleep with the book on my face. So, I'd be lying if I didn't think: "oh thank God I finished that..." when I was done.

Had I chose to sit down during the day and read, I probably would have fared better, and I think this would be great as an audiobook. It's a sweeping adventure tale, with some philosophy and romance tucked in, and a cast of char
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • A Book of Five Rings: The Classic Guide to Strategy
  • Shōgun
  • The Lone Samurai: The Life of Miyamoto Musashi
  • The 47 Ronin Story
  • The Unfettered Mind: Writings of the Zen Master to the Sword Master
  • Shogun, Part 1
  • Gai-Jin (Asian Saga, #3)
  • Tai-Pan (Asian Saga, #2)
  • About Face: Odyssey Of An American Warrior
  • Shogun, Part 2
  • The Essential Dogen: Writings of the Great Zen Master
  • Felicidade ou morte
  • Gates of Fire
  • Bushido: The Soul of Japan. A Classic Essay on Samurai Ethics
  • Leadership Strategy and Tactics: Field Manual
  • Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai
  • King Rat (Asian Saga, #4)
  • Tao of Jeet Kune Do
See similar books…
Pen-name of Yoshikawa Hidetsugu. Yoshikawa is well-known for his work as a Japanese historical fiction novelist, and a number of re-makes have been spawned off his work.

In 1960, he received the Order of Cultural Merit.
Eiji Yoshikawa (吉川 英治, August 11, 1892 – September 7, 1962) was a Japanese historical novelist. Among his best-known novels, most are revisions of older classics. He was mainly influ

Other books in the series

Musashi (5 books)
  • Musashi: The Way of the Samurai
  • Musashi (Musashi, #2)
  • Musashi: The Way of the Sword
  • Musashi: The Bushido Code
  • Musashi: The Way of Life and Death

Related Articles

Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman know the radical life-changing power of a good friendship. The two launched their hit podcast Call Your Girlfriend ...
7 likes · 0 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“It is easy to crush an enemy outside oneself but impossible to defeat an enemy within.” 610 likes
“Fighting isn't all there is to the Art of War. The men who think that way, and are satisfied to have food to eat and a place to sleep, are mere vagabonds. A serious student is much more concerned with training his mind and disciplining his spirit than with developing martial skills.” 60 likes
More quotes…