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Musashi

(Musashi #Complete)

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4.47  ·  Rating details ·  16,197 ratings  ·  1,149 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)
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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)
Brukland Yes. I found the 5 smaller books easier to hold and read than the massive hardcover.
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Average rating 4.47  · 
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Alger
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
Olivia
Oct 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: historical
This is a quick and easy read despite its length. The prose is straightforward and there's plenty of action.

Unfortunately, I thought the characters are mostly two-dimensional at best, and the plot is sort of repetitive which resulted in tedious bits. And I never really emotionally connected with the characters.

If you're interested in samurais and Japanese culture, give it a try. It’s definitely worth a read.
...more
aaron
Oct 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Hasham Rasool
'Musashi' is more authentic, having been written in Japan by a Japanese author.

This book is a fictionalized account of the life of Miyamoto Musashi and arguably the most renowned Japanese swordsman who ever lived.

Oh my! What an awesome book Alhamdulillah! I would massively recommend anyone who likes historical fiction or samurai books or 'Shogun' by James Clavell to read this book. Insha'Allah.

I am really interesting to learn Japanese culture, Japanese history and the way of the samurai.

'Musas
...more
Jasper
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
...more
Terry
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
Radiantflux
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
...more
Tom
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
...more
Riannon
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
...more
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
...more
Malum
May 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Rob
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. ...more
Sud666
Musashi written by Eji Yoshikawa in the 1930s is only loosely considered to be "historical fiction". Many of the famous characters, including Musashi himself, did indeed exist. But this is primarily a fiction novel that tells the story of Miyamoto Musashi.

In the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Sekigahara, two very young samurai friends rise to consciousness and find they are injured but have survived the battle. Shinmen Takezō, in time, will find himself a ronin and a violent one at that. H
...more
Marquise
Overall, I enjoyed this long novel very much. It was very entertaining, easy to read, with plenty of hilarious moments, and a large cast of eccentric and colourful characters from a variety of walks in life.

It did have its issues, naturally. The characterisation isn't quite that deep for most characters, with the exception of the protagonist, Miyamoto Musashi, and perhaps a couple of others. But given the scope and breadth of the story, it'd have been extremely difficult to make everyone multi-l
...more
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
...more
Sambora
Nov 12, 2020 rated it it was ok
I have spent the last 9 months listening, on and off, to the audiobook of Musashi and I can safely say that I am glad that I didn't try a print version, for I am certain that it would have been a DNF for me.

At it's core, Musashi is the story of a young man from Japan who grows up to be a renowned master of the way of the sword. Over the course of the 50+ hour long story, he encounters new sword fighting techniques and learns the skills and attributes that are required and expected of an honourab
...more
Sam
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
...more
Soo
Apr 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook, favorites
Notes:

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.
...more
David
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. ...more
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
...more
Ryan
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
...more
Joe Kraus
Mar 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: world-literature
I’d like to put this forward as the Japanese Lord of the Rings.

It’s not that this is a fantasy, at least not in the sense that LOTR is. There are, of course, lots of swords and lots of people journeying across the land, but it’s in a generally historic, actual place, not an invented one.

Instead, I see this as a similarly anti-Modernist work. Tolkien, whatever else he was doing, set out to assert an alternative to the Modernism all around him. If, half a generation earlier, W.B. Yeats had observe
...more
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
Shannon
May 11, 2021 rated it liked it
Not as good as I thought it would be. The first part of the book was a lot of fun and I almost thought this could end up being a five star read for me, but I was so turned off by Jotaru and the way Otsu followed Musashi around begging him to like her that I simply got disgusted. Girl, grow a spine! He does not want you, find someone who will appreciate you! Don't waste your life on that loser! Jotaru was simply horrendous to read about, what an annoying little dude. Plus, I was really turned off ...more
Terry Kim
Jan 29, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A tale of what makes a Warrior. Entertaining but also enlightening life of Miyamoto Musashi.

Wow, what a book, this book took me 3 months to read and I loved every page of it. If you had a pick a legendry role model to study Musashi would be the one for me.

It really is fascinating to see where Musashi came from, a lost young adult to the tranquil warrior he becomes at the end. Musashi's journey is that of Stoicism and Zen Buddhism. To Musashi the journey is less physical and more within, where h
...more
Juho Pohjalainen
Sep 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
It's a classic of Japanese literature that has mostly earned its merit for good reasons. The narrative flows very well, the characters have meaningful arcs, and the combat - when it happens - is tense and visceral. But the story's kind of all over the place and occasionally skips important events, and calls it a day a bit early: everything's concluded well enough but an epilogue would not have been amiss. ...more
shmoomp
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
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. ...more
Martha Sockel
Aug 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: japan, samurai
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Barry
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
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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
...more

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

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“It is easy to crush an enemy outside oneself but impossible to defeat an enemy within.” 611 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.” 62 likes
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