Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Eiji Yoshikawa’s massive fictionalized biography of a Japanese folk hero was originally published from 1935 to 1939 in serial form in the prestigious Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun under the title Miyamoto Musashi. In 1981, it was translated with the English title Musashi by Charles S. Terry, who condensed it into one volume of 970 pages with seven major sections, each containing many short chapters. In his work, Yoshikawa relates the story of the young life of Miyamoto Musashi Masana (originally Shimmen Takez), a Japanese folk hero and soldier-artist who lived during the early Edo period (16031867), which saw the unification of Japan.

Yoshikawa begins his biography in 1600 after the Battle of Sekigahara, where Tokugawa Ieyasu defeated the western lords. After fighting on the losing side, Shimmen Takez and Hon’iden Matahachi, two teenage boys, were unsure of their future. Recuperating at the nearby home of a widow, Takez and Matahachi killed several bandits. Fearful of reprisals by the entire bandit band, Matahachi left secretly with the widow and her daughter. Takez returned to his home in Mimasaka and became a rnin, or masterless samurai. Hunted by order of Lord Ikeda Terumasa, Takez was captured by Takuan Sh, a Zen monk, who tied him to a cryptomeria tree for several days. He was freed by Ots, the fiancée of Matahachi who had recently learned of Matahachi’s “marriage” to the widow. Fleeing the village together, Ots and Takez were pursued by Osugi, Matahachi’s mother, who...

(The entire section is 627 words.)