Yoshikawa, Eiji

your fiancée Otsū, and my sister and everybody else crying and saying village boys should stay in the village. Oh, maybe they had their reasons. We are both only sons, and if we get ourselves killed there’s no one else to carry on the family names.

But who cares? Is that any way to live?”

The men barged rudely into the main part of the house. They didn’t even stop to remove their sandals, a sure sign of habitual uncouthness.

Grudgingly, Osugi allowed herself to be persuaded. She was, of course, as eager as Otsū to find out what was going on, but she’d die before begging for anything from a Shimmen.

“You aren’t serious, are you?” “Would you please be quiet! Are you implying that Takuan Sōhō spends all his time making up jokes?”

“How can we catch Takezō by just sitting here?” “If you set up nets, you can catch birds on the wing without having to fly around yourself.” “We haven’t set up any nets. Are you sure you haven’t become possessed by a fox or something?”

“Takuan, why do the people in the village hate him so much?” “The authorities make them hate him. Otsū, these people are simple. They’re afraid of the government, so afraid that if it so decrees, they’ll drive away their fellow villagers, even their own kin.”

“I always thought you were kind, Takuan, but deep down you’re quite hard, aren’t you? I didn’t think you cared about the daimyō’s laws.” “Well, I do. I think that good should be rewarded and evil punished, and I came here with the authority to do just that.”

My thoughts seem to go round and round in circles.” “You’re not telling the truth!” said Takuan sternly. “Of course those ideas entered your head, but you really had something much more specific on your mind.”

“I’m not crazy. I just have nerve. That’s what it takes.”

Otsū had been on her way toward sharing her companion’s confidence, but his disclosure that he was operating on sheer audacity sent her into a fit of despondency. Was he totally insane? Sometimes people who are not quite right in the mind are taken by others to be geniuses.

People aren’t strong at heart, they’re weak. And solitude is not their natural state, particularly when it involves being surrounded by enemies and chased with swords. You may think it’s natural, but I’d be very much surprised if Takezō manages to resist the temptation to pay us a call and warm himself by the fire.”

While he felt pity for this obstinate tenacity, so characteristic of orphans, he was aware of a void deep within their stubborn hearts. They seemed to him doomed to yearn desperately for that which they could not have, for the parental love with which they were never blessed.

Takuan said no more. He seemed no longer to even be there; there was only the great lonely universe enveloped in night.

His proposal struck his listeners as so inhumanly cruel that at first no one could answer.

Loneliness, she mused, is like hunger; it isn’t outside but inside oneself. To be lonely, she thought, is to sense that one lacks something, something vitally necessary, but what she knew not.

only she had a friend! She didn’t need many; just one who knew her well, someone she could lean on, someone strong and completely trustworthy. That was what she longed for, craved so badly that she was nearly at her wit’s end. There was always, of course, her flute, but by the time a girl is sixteen, there are questions and uncertainties inside her that can’t be answered by a piece of bamboo. She needed intimacy and a sense of partaking in, not just observing, real life.

I must say, our world is fortunate indeed to be blessed with such outstanding, upright samurai! He’s so brave he asks a mere girl to do his beheading for him. And so stupid as to put it in writing.”

when you arrive in that other world beyond and are reunited with your ancestors, tell them that just before you died a man named Takuan Sōhō told you this. They’ll be overjoyed to learn you had such excellent guidance, even if you did learn what life was all about too late to bring anything but shame to your family name.”

“Why don’t you cut that out, Takezō—you’re getting nowhere. You’ll just wear yourself out, and what good is that going to do you? Squirm and wriggle all you like, you couldn’t break a single branch of this tree, much less make a dent in the universe.”

All along you’ve had too much confidence in your own brute strength, thinking you didn’t have a match in the world. But look where you are now!” “I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of. It wasn’t a fair fight.” “In the long run, Takezō, it doesn’t make any difference. You were outwitted and outtalked instead of being outpummeled. When you’ve lost, you’ve lost. And whether you like it or not, I’m sitting on this rock and you’re lying up there helpless.

Her gift of life took the form of rice cakes, stuffed generously with sweet bean paste. As their sweetness slid smoothly down his throat, Takezō grew giddy. The fingers holding the cake shook. “I’m alive,” he thought over and over, vowing that from that moment on he’d live a very different sort of life.

He was as intimidated by Osugi as anyone else but knew better than most how to manage her.

“That’s her, right? Don’t worry, she doesn’t have much of a head start. She’s sick and anyway she only has the legs of a girl. I’ll catch up with her in no time.” He tucked his chin in and broke into a run.

Being brave was very different from being ferocious; he saw that now. He didn’t feel like an animal, he felt like a man, a courageous man who’s outgrown his adolescent recklessness. The life that had been given to him was something to be treasured and cherished, polished and perfected.

“Learn to fear that which is fearsome….Brute strength is child’s play, the mindless strength of beasts….Have the strength of the true warrior…real courage….Life is precious.”

He who knows the art of the warrior is not confused in his movements. He acts and is not confined.

“He who knows himself and knows his enemy wins without danger. He who knows the heavens and the earth wins out over all.”

Whenever he came to a passage that particularly appealed to him, like this one, he would read it aloud over and over, like a chant.

When Takuan had sentenced him to confinement, he had said, “You may read as much as you want. A famous priest of ancient times once said, ‘I become immersed in the sacred scriptures and read thousands of volumes. When I come away, I find that my heart sees more than before.’

look again, more closely. Look with your mind and think. This room can be the wellspring of enlightenment, the same fountain of knowledge found and enriched by sages in the past. It is up to you to decide whether this is to be a chamber of darkness or one of light.”

“Surely you want to see her yourself, if only for a few minutes.” “No, I don’t think so. I did die, Takuan, and I do feel reborn. I don’t think that now is the time to return to the past. What I have to do is take a resolute step forward, into the future. I’ve barely found the way along which I’ll have to travel. When I’ve made some progress toward the knowledge and self-perfection I’m seeking, perhaps I’ll take the time to relax and look back. Not now.”

“Now there’s only this sword,” he thought. “The only thing in the world I have to rely on.” He rested his hand on the weapon’s handle and vowed to himself, “I will live by its rule. I will regard it as my soul, and by learning to master it, strive to improve myself, to become a better and wiser human being. Takuan follows the Way of Zen, I will follow the Way of the Sword. I must make of myself an even better man than he is.”

The questions raced through his agitated mind: “What can I do? How can I embark on my quest for truth and knowledge with a woman, with anyone, interfering all the time?

Musashi realized how narrow-minded he himself had been, how petty, to suppose that the monk felt a special compassion for him alone; his generosity encompassed Ogin, Otsū, anyone in need whom he thought he could help.

I have a new name, Miyamoto Musashi. I want to dedicate myself to training and discipline. I want to spend every moment of every day working to improve myself. I know now how far I have to go.

“Young Master, where are we headed tonight?” they clamored,

things aren’t what they used to be in the old days when the master taught the shōguns and was considered the greatest of swordsmen. There are far more people practicing the Way of the Sword these days, not only in Kyoto but in Edo, Hitachi, Echizen, the home provinces, the western provinces, Kyushu—all over the country. Just because Yoshioka Kempō was famous doesn’t mean the Young Master and all of us are the greatest swordsmen alive. It’s just not true, so why kid ourselves?”

“Coward! You pretend to be a samurai, but you’re afraid of other schools!” “Who’s afraid of them? I just think we should guard ourselves against becoming complacent.”

It was amazing to Okō how some men, who would flatly refuse to lend a hand in their own homes, could be so helpful and considerate when visiting a place like hers. Often they would open or close the windows for themselves, get out their own cushions, and do a dozen other little chores they’d never dream of doing under their own roofs.

Sprawled on the floor, a sword handle lying carelessly across his belly, was an unkempt samurai whose clothing and general appearance left no doubt that he was one of the rōnin often seen roaming the streets and byways with nothing to do.

He realized that living the way he had been for the past few years, he had lost the ability to think clearly.

In the final analysis, Matahachi did not have the courage to let Okō and Akemi see him working as a day laborer. He had grown lazy and soft; the young man who dressed in silk and could distinguish Nada sake from the local brew by its taste was a far cry from the simple, rugged Matahachi who had been at Sekigahara. The worst aspect was that living this strange life with an older woman had robbed him of his youthfulness. In years he was still young, but in spirit he was dissolute and spiteful, lazy and resentful.

“But I’ll do it!” he vowed. “I’ll get out now!” Giving himself a final angry blow on the head, he jumped to his feet, shouting, “I’ll get out of here this very day!” As he listened to his own voice, it suddenly sank in that there was no one around to hold him back, nothing that actually bound him to this house.

The world outside these great white walls had changed more than most of the people inside realized. For years they had boasted, loafed, and played around, and time had, as it will, passed them by.

the emphasis of the warrior class on personal honor was respected by farmers and townsmen alike, and it played a role in preserving peace. A general consensus regarding what constituted honorable behavior, and what did not, made it possible for the people to govern themselves even with inadequate laws.

These days he often felt deep admiration for other people’s work. He found he respected technique, art, even the ability to do a simple task well, particularly if it was a skill he himself had not mastered.

Contemplating the skill, concentration and devotion put into making wares, even as cheap as these, made Musashi feel he still had a long way to go if he was ever to reach the level of perfection in swordsmanship that he aspired to.

at each school he had experienced disappointment. Though he always won his bouts, he was unable to decide whether this was because he was good or his opponents were bad. In either case, if the samurai he had met were typical, the country was in sorry shape.

Encouraged by his success, he had reached the point of taking a certain pride in his expertise. But now, reminded of the danger of vanity, he felt chastened. He mentally bowed in deep respect to the clay-smudged old men at the wheel and started up the steep slope to Kiyomizudera.

he bowed and said two prayers. One was: “Please protect my sister from harm.” The other was: “Please test the lowly Musashi with hardship. Let him become the greatest swordsman in the land, or let him die.”

As he sat clasping his knees, a simple, but powerful, ambition welled up in his young breast. “I want to lead an important life. I want to do it because I was born a human being.”

in the tenth century two rebels named Taira no Masakado and Fujiwara no Sumitomo, both wildly ambitious, had gotten together and decided that if they emerged from the wars victorious, they would divide Japan up between them. The story was probably apocryphal to begin with, but Musashi remembered thinking at the time how stupid and unrealistic it would have been for them to believe they could carry out so grandiose a scheme. Now, however, he no longer felt it laughable. While his own dream was of a different sort, there were certain similarities. If the young cannot harbor great dreams in their souls, who can? At the moment Musashi was imagining how he could create a place of his own in the world.

And as Musashi considered the long, long struggle Tokugawa Ieyasu had had to endure to make this desire a reality, he realized once again how hard it was to hold fast to one’s ideal.

For Musashi, the important thing from now on would be his sword and the society around him, his swordsmanship as it related to existing as a human being. In a moment of insight, he was satisfied that he had found the link between the martial arts and his own visions of greatness.

Take care of yourself, stay alive, so you can be an inspiration to me.”

“If he’s your teacher, he must be a real expert.” “He’s not all that good.” “What do you mean?” “Everybody says he’s weak.” “Doesn’t it bother you to have a weak man for a teacher?” “No. I’m no good with the sword either, so it doesn’t make any difference.”

“swordsmanship is a fad these days; everybody and his brother’s going around studying it. You can meet five or ten wandering on this road alone any day of the week. It’s all because there are so many more rōnin around to give lessons than there used to be.” “I suppose that’s part of it.” “They’re attracted to it because they hear somewhere that if a fellow’s good with a sword, the daimyō will fall all over each other trying to hire him for four or five thousand bushels a year.” “A quick way to get rich, uh?” “Exactly. When you think about it, it’s frightening. Why, even this boy here has a wooden sword. He probably thinks he just has to learn how to hit people with it to become a real man. We get a lot like that, and the sad part is, in the end, most of them will go hungry.”

The temple was located on Abura Hill in a large, dense forest of cryptomeria trees. It was just the kind of place goblins might inhabit.

When you were still fifty feet from me, I perceived what you call ‘something murderous’ in the air. I sensed it in the tip of my hoe—that’s how strongly your fighting spirit and ambition manifest themselves in every step you take. I knew I had to be prepared to defend myself.

She returned with a youngish woman, whose shaved eyebrows indicated she was married

They paused only long enough to slurp some tea and devour the tea cakes with gusto, spilling crumbs all over their laps and on the floor.

At the same moment, on the other side of the plain, a horseman was saying to Nikkan, “You walk fast for your age, don’t you?” “I’m not fast. You’re slow.”

“Don’t you understand yet?” he asked. “That you’re too strong is the only thing I have to teach you. If you continue to pride yourself on your strength, you won’t live to see thirty. Why, you might easily have been killed today. Think about that, and decide how to conduct yourself in the future.”

He put up at the local inn with the intention of relaxing for a time, physically and spiritually.

“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.

He wants, essentially, to go everywhere he can and learn everything he can.”

They seemed exceedingly satisfied with themselves, but Musashi thought them ridiculous. In contrast to what he had seen of Koyagyū Castle and the enviable state of the area’s inhabitants, they appeared to have nothing better to offer than clever conversation.

“If I’m going to match arms with anybody,” thought Musashi, “it should be with somebody strong. It’s worth risking my life to see whether I can overcome the great Yagyū name. There’s no use in following the Way of the Sword if I haven’t the courage to try.” Musashi was aware that most people would laugh outright at him for entertaining the idea. Yagyū, though not one of the more prominent daimyō, was the master of a castle, his son was at the shōgun’s court, and the whole family was steeped in the traditions of the warrior class. In the new age now dawning, they were riding the crest of the times. “This will be the true test,” thought Musashi, who, even as he ate his rice, was preparing himself for the encounter.

“If I’m going to match arms with anybody,” thought Musashi, “it should be with somebody strong. It’s worth risking my life to see whether I can overcome the great Yagyū name. There’s no use in following the Way of the Sword if I haven’t the courage to try.”

His perspicacity, which people admired, was one factor, but to survive in such turbulent times, Sekishūsai had to have an inner fortitude lacking in the ordinary samurai of his time; they were all too apt to side with a man one day and shamelessly desert him the next, to look after their own interests—with no thought to propriety or integrity—or even to slaughter their own kinsmen should they interfere with personal ambitions.

“He understands that perfectly, of course. But he’s spending his old age in retirement and has acquired the habit of expressing many of his thoughts in terms of tea.”

With a little urging, Musashi accepted some sake, though he was not particularly fond of it. It was not so much that he disliked it as that he was still too young to appreciate its subtlety.

As they would with any stranger, these four senior disciples of the House of Yagyū were trying to analyze Musashi as a human being and at the same time test him. They had already taken note of his physique, admiring his carriage and the expression in his eyes. But the way he held his sake cup and his chopsticks betrayed his country upbringing and made them inclined to be patronizing.

He streaked off, untroubled by paths of darkness and paths of light.

it was one phase of a huge building program, an important part of the Tokugawa scheme of government. Construction work on a large scale was also being carried out in Edo, Nagoya, Suruga, Hikone, Ōtsu and a dozen other castle towns. The purpose was to a large extent political, for one of Ieyasu’s methods of maintaining control over the daimyō was to order them to undertake various engineering projects. Since none was powerful enough to refuse, this kept the friendly lords too busy to grow soft, while simultaneously forcing the daimyō who’d opposed Ieyasu at Sekigahara to part with large portions of their incomes. Still another aim of the government was to win the support of the common people, who profited both directly and indirectly from extensive public works.

City folk were fast forgetting the balmy days of Hideyoshi’s regime and instead speculating on what might be gained in the days ahead. It made little difference to them who was in power; so long as they could satisfy their own petty wants, they saw no reason to complain.

Nor did Ieyasu disappoint them in this respect, for he contrived to scatter money as he might pass out candy to children. Not his own money, to be sure, but that of his potential enemies.

sangfroid merely the letdown that follows an explosion of rage?

Chōsokabe had, despite his youth, shaved his head like a Buddhist priest and changed his name to Ichimusai—“The Man of a Single Dream.” It was a declaration that the affairs of this floating world no longer concerned him,

You’ll find, my friend, that in the gutters of this floating world, much of the trash consists of fallen flowers.”

To any self-respecting samurai, such insults were worse than being spat on, but the young man’s former pursuers were too busy running to care.

it appeared that he was of stronger character than might have been inferred from his taste in clothes.

To his way of thinking, he had had a battle with a nail, and the nail had won. As a student of the martial arts, he was humiliated at having let himself be taken unawares.

“The nail was pointed upward and plainly visible. I stepped on it because I was half asleep—no, blind, because my spirit is not yet active throughout my whole body. What’s more, I let the nail penetrate deep, proof my reflexes are slow. If I’d been in perfect control, I would have noticed the nail as soon as the bottom of my sandal touched it.”

His trouble, he concluded, was immaturity. His body and his sword were still not one; though his arms grew stronger every day, his spirit and the rest of his body were not in tune.

What was hard to find was a real man. While the world was full of people, all too full, finding a genuine human being was not easy.

what would Takuan be able to say then? Surely he would cry out for joy and proclaim, “It’s magnificent! I’m happy now.” But no, Takuan would never be that direct. Being Takuan, he would laugh and say, “Stupid! You’re improving, but you’re still stupid!”

What was important was not talk or speculation but action. There may be other people much greater than he right now, but he, too, could be great!

When self-doubt threatened to overwhelm him, it was Musashi’s habit to make straight for the mountains, in whose seclusion he could live to himself.

His style of life there was evident from his appearance on returning to civilization—his cheeks hollow as a deer’s, his body covered with scratches and bruises, his hair dry and stiff from long hours under a cold waterfall. He would be so dirty from sleeping on the ground that the whiteness of his teeth seemed unearthly, but these were mere superficialities. Inside he would be burning with a confidence verging on arrogance and bursting with eagerness to take on a worthy adversary.

water out, and soaked his foot in it. Nothing happened, and

Thinking he would pin down and stifle the demon inside him, he forced himself to sit on his haunches in formal style. It was painful, excruciatingly so. He nearly fainted. He faced the window but closed his eyes, and quite some time passed before the violent redness in his face began to subside and his head to cool a bit. He wondered if the demon was yielding to his unflinching tenacity.

For all the pain, all the physical torment, his spirit was tense and throbbing with vitality.

He lifted his head and with keen eyes regarded the nothingness around him.

To Musashi, the icy plunge into the sacred stream was necessary. If his body could not withstand the cold, how could it survive in the face of life’s more threatening obstacles

Musashi was not afraid to die, but his objective was to win definitively, not just survive, and he was trying to build up the confidence to do so. Let others die heroic deaths, if that suited them. Musashi could settle for nothing less than a heroic victory.

But unless he could triumph throughout this life and leave an indelible mark on the world around him, he could not regard himself as a master

“Just a little more.” How easy to say, but how difficult to achieve! For “just a little more” is what distinguishes the victorious sword from the vanquished.

Hands and feet knotted with pain, he clawed again at the mountain. If his body or willpower weakened, he told himself, then as a swordsman he would surely one day be done in. This was where the match would be decided, and Musashi knew it.

When he finally lifted his head, his mind was as pure and clear as crystal.

Amid the celestial purity surrounding him, there arose the strange odor of humanity—the sweet smell of gloom dispelled.

Of all the sorrows that beset living beings, surely the most gnawing, the most wretched, the most agonizing, was not to be able to lay eyes on the person one pined for.

Recalling her conversation with Arakida, Otsū blushed, then comforted herself with the thought that it made no real difference what people said, so long as Musashi had faith in her.

Takuan had taught him life’s first lesson, namely that there are a lot of people in the world who may very well be one’s betters.

“Whose little boy are you anyway?” “I’m the son of my mother and my father,” replied Jōtarō impudently. “I thought you might be the unruly offspring of the storm god.” “You’re the storm god, aren’t you? You look mad as a thunderbolt.”

Otsū did not want to speak badly of Sannojō behind his back, but she admitted she did not like him either, adding,

Otsū did not want to speak badly of Sannojō behind his back, but she admitted she did not like him either,

Akemi walked on, pretending to have no ears,

Kojirō sensed in him a smallness of spirit that would make it very difficult for Seijūrō to uphold the reputation of the Yoshioka School.

Kojirō wanted Seijūrō to forget about the impending bout with Musashi, for this, he believed, would be the best possible preparation for him. The question he wanted to ask, but didn’t, was what could he hope to learn between now and the time for the match?

Musashi wrote: “I will have no regrets about anything.”

While he often wrote down resolutions, he found that merely writing them did little good. He had to repeat them to himself every morning and every evening, as one would sacred scripture.

He mumbled the words to himself but still found them unsatisfactory. He changed them again: “I will do nothing that I will regret.”

Musashi repeated the resolution to himself, realizing it was an ideal he could not achieve unless he disciplined his heart and his mind to the utmost of his ability. Nevertheless, to strive for a state in which nothing he did would cause regrets was the path he must pursue. “Someday I will reach that state!” he vowed, driving the oath like a stake deep into his own heart.

Surely the Eight Freezing Hells could not be this numbing! Why, when he normally shrugged off the cold, did he feel it so bitterly this morning? He answered his own question. “It’s not just my body. I’m cold inside. Not disciplined properly.

Why can’t I be thankful for independence and freedom to go where I choose? Why can’t I hold on to my ideals and my pride?”

A piece of his sleeve fell off, giving Osugi the chance to see blood on the white lining. “I’ve wounded him!” she screamed in ecstasy, waving her sword wildly. She was as proud as if she had felled a great tree in one stroke, and the fact that Musashi wasn’t fighting back in no way dimmed her elation. She went on shouting the name of the Kannon of Kiyomizudera, calling the deity down to earth.

After hearing most of these arguments at one time or another, Musashi had been inclined to side with the doubters. After this experience, he realized how premature his judgment had been and how important and useful randomly acquired bits of knowledge could subsequently prove to be.

It might have been all right if no one were watching, but there they were chest to chest, embracing each other on a busy thoroughfare. A man and a woman hugging each other in public? It was shameless. He couldn’t believe any grownup could act so disgracefully

Not only was he old enough to understand Otsū’s feelings; he also had a certain appreciation of the attraction men and women felt for each other. The experience of rolling about in the straw with Kocha in Koyagyū had not faded from his mind. Even so, it remained a mystery to him why a grown woman like Otsū went around moping and weeping all the time over a man.

it is said that one must discern from the point of the enemy’s sword the extent of his ability.

they shared one similarity: both were at that age of maximum impudence when they were certain they knew everything there was to know about politics, society, the Art of War and all other subjects.

First tie her up with words, thought Osugi, then roast her for dinner.

Seijūrō, shamed by Kojirō’s words, said, “I said I’ll walk, and walk I will!” After a short pause, he proceeded another twenty paces, carried more by his willpower than by his legs.

But Seijūrō, shamed by Kojirō’s words, said, “I said I’ll walk, and walk I will!” After a short pause, he proceeded another twenty paces, carried more by his willpower than by his legs.

he proceeded another twenty paces, carried more by his willpower than by his legs.

When the greetings were exchanged, Musashi thought uncomfortably: “I should never have gotten into this fight.” His regrets were sincere, because his aim was always to take on opponents who were better than he. One good look was sufficient; there had been no need to train for a year just to have this bout. Seijūrō’s eyes betrayed a lack of self-confidence. The necessary fire was absent, not only from his face but from his whole body.

“Kōetsu, who would you select as the three greatest calligraphers in the country?” Without the slightest hesitation, Kōetsu answered, “The second is yourself, and then I suppose Shōkadō Shōjō.” A little puzzled, Nobutada asked, “You start with the second best, but who is the best?” Kōetsu, without so much as a smile, looked directly into his eyes and replied, “I am, of course.”

With nothing to do, he was sliding from boredom into lethargy and this worried him. He must not let himself go slack, even for a moment.


This unpretentious bowl, too, had been made by a genius. It revealed the touch of the spirit, the mysterious insight.

It disturbed him a little to recognize the depth of Kōetsu’s spiritual resources.

Accustomed to measuring men in terms of their swordsmanship, he suddenly decided that his yardstick was too short.

There seemed to be something close to admiration in Kōetsu’s remark, but as an older man, he could not bring himself to praise the boy. Not only would it not be dignified, it might also go to his head.

Kojirō had no compunction about revealing his ambitions, outrageous though they were by ordinary standards.

“Take a lesson from me, you spineless ass. You saw me return that certificate, didn’t you? If a man doesn’t have enough pride to do a thing like that, he’ll never be able to do anything on his own.

In response to their questions, Matahachi made up a story in which his sterling qualities figured prominently and his weaknesses not at all. Taking advantage of the fact that he was talking to Yoshioka partisans, he brought up Musashi’s name. They had been childhood friends, he revealed, until Musashi had abducted his fiancée and covered his family with unspeakable shame. His valiant mother had vowed not to return home; both his mother and himself were bent on finding Musashi and destroying him. As for being Okō’s husband, this was far from the truth. His long stay at the Yomogi Teahouse was not because of any personal connection with the proprietress, and the proof of this was in her having fallen in love with Gion Tōji.

In response to their questions, Matahachi made up a story in which his sterling qualities figured prominently and his weaknesses not at all.

She couldn’t believe the boy had looked for her and not been able to find her. Twenty days had passed, and he knew she was staying at the foot of Sannen Hill. He might be sick, but she did not really believe this either; Jōtarō was not the type to be ill. “He’s probably out flying a kite somewhere, having a good time,”

Their disagreements were often like this, beginning with a violent clash of emotions, a locking of horns in implacable antagonism. Mutual understanding was undermined before it ever had a chance to grow.

Children, Matahachi reflected, are wont to make trouble for their parents, but sometimes it is the other way around.

Chilled to the bone, he hugged his knees and tried to deceive himself into thinking that the chattering of his teeth and the painful shiver running up and down his spine came from the cold alone and had nothing to do with his fear.

Maybe I shouldn’t say it, but isn’t the mistake I made one almost any young man might be guilty of?” “Talk if you like, but I’ll never again be able to take your word seriously.” “Oh, but, Otsū, I know I was wrong! I’m a man, but here I am, apologizing to a woman. Don’t you understand how difficult that is for me?” “Stop it! If you’re a man, you should act like one.”

“There are lots of Buddhists like that in this world. The faithful, they’re called. They do something they shouldn’t, go to the temple and pray to Amida. They seem to dream up diabolical deeds for Amida to forgive. They’ll quite cheerfully strike a man dead, perfectly confident that if they call on Amida afterward, their sins will be absolved and they’ll go to the Western Paradise when they die. These good people are something of a problem.”

There was a difference between Musashi’s idea of preparation and his opponent’s. Denshichirō, though physically prepared, had only begun to pull himself together spiritually, whereas Musashi had started fighting long before he presented himself to his enemy.

Caution was in order; in a case like this, victory is like the moon reflected on a lake. If one jumps for it impulsively, one can drown.

“Are you staring at Liang-k’ai’s picture again? You seem to have taken a great liking to it. When you leave, roll it up and take it with you. I’d like you to have it.” Musashi demurred. “I couldn’t possibly accept it. It’s bad enough for me to stay here in your house so long. Why, that must be a family heirloom!” “But you do like it, don’t you?” The older man smiled indulgently. “You may have it if you want it. I really don’t need it. Pictures should be owned by the people who really love and appreciate them.

If he had been an ordinary man, he might have been sucked into a whirlpool of confusion and succumbed. Yet he remained steady, shaking off his sense of inadequacy as if it were no more than snow on his sleeve.

Musashi no longer saw a great boulder before him. He himself no longer existed as a separate person. The will to win had been forgotten. He saw the whiteness of the snow falling between himself and the other man, and the spirit of the snow was as light as his own. The space now seemed an extension of his own body. He had become the universe, or the universe had become him.

“You’ll fall,” cried Sumigiku, rushing to prevent this. “Don’t be silly. My legs may wobble a bit, but my spirit’s firm!”

To put it another way, the tonal richness comes from there being a certain freedom of movement a certain relaxation, at the ends of the core. “It’s the same with people. In life, we must have flexibility. Our spirits must be able to move freely. To be too stiff and rigid is to be brittle and lacking in responsiveness.”

The thirty men were quickly losing the use of their thirty minds.

“There’s no end to the path of discipline.” “Aren’t you ever going to see Otsū again, for the rest of your life?” “If the talents I was born with are the right ones, I may someday achieve my goal. If not, I may go through life being as stupid as I am now.

Musashi was no longer the impetuous youth who had spurned Otsū at Hanada Bridge. He was less self-centered and reckless, more patient and much more gentle. Yoshino’s charm might have reawakened the fires of passion, had he not rejected love in much the same way that fire repels water. Still, when the woman was Otsū, he lacked confidence in his ability to practice self-control. He knew that he must not think of her without considering the effect he might have on her life.

He had spent the previous day meditating under a pine tree at the inner temple at Kurama, hoping to achieve that state of bliss in which body and soul no longer matter. Unsuccessful in his effort to rid himself of the idea of death, he was now ashamed of having wasted his time.

Are you really intending to go alone, or do you have supporters going by another route?” “I will have one companion.” “Is that so? Where is he now?” “Right here!” Musashi, his laughing teeth shining in the moonlight, pointed to his shadow.

“The way you talk, you may already be possessed by the god of death.” “Think what you like. There are people who die by remaining alive and others who gain life by dying.”

Musashi emerged from behind a tree and stood where Kojirō had been standing. He was glad to be rid of him. He had no use for a man who took pleasure in watching other people die, who watched impassively while other men staked their lives on causes that were important to them.

“I know myself better than anyone else does. I’m neither a genius nor a great man.” He became silent again. Despite his desire to express his feelings honestly, his words seemed to him to be concealing the truth. His heart told him to be even more candid. “That’s the kind of man I am. What else can I say? I think of my sword, and you disappear into some dark corner of my mind—no, disappear altogether, leaving no trace. At times like that I’m happiest and most satisfied with my life. Do you understand? All this time you’ve suffered, you’ve risked body and soul on a man who loves his sword more than he loves you. I’ll die to vindicate my sword, but I wouldn’t die for the love of a woman. Not even you. As much as I’d like to fall on my knees and beg your forgiveness, I can’t.”

“I know all that,” she said emphatically. “If I didn’t know it, I wouldn’t love you as I do.”

I’m not throwing my life away for a useless cause. I’ve chosen to do what I’m doing because by dying I can achieve eternal life. Depend on one thing: my body may turn to dust, but I’ll still be alive.” Catching his breath, he added a warning. “Are you listening? By attempting to follow me in death, you may find that you’re dying alone. You may look for me in the world beyond only to find I’m not there. I intend to live on for a hundred or a thousand years—in the hearts of my countrymen, in the spirit of Japanese swordsmanship.”

To the universe, the death of one man could hardly have any more significance than that of a butterfly,

“What am I doing?” he thought in horror. The rope, plaited with red and white cotton cord, seemed to be inviting him to take hold of it, sound the gong and make his supplication. He stared at it. “What was I going to request?” he asked himself. “What need have I of the help of the gods? Am I not already one with the universe?

He was appalled. Without thinking, without remembering his years of training and self-discipline, he had been on the brink of begging for supernatural assistance.

The men were drunk on the sight and smell of blood, as drunk as if they had swallowed a storehouseful of sake. The sight of blood, which makes a brave man cooler, has the opposite effect on cowards. These men were like goblins surfacing from a lake of gore.

By all accepted standards, Musashi was not a great sword technician. Schools, styles, theories, traditions—none of these meant anything to him. His mode of fighting was completely pragmatic. What he knew was only what he had learned from experience. He wasn’t putting theory into practice; he fought first and theorized later.

The next instant they were all around Musashi, cursing, taunting, even spitting at him. He wasn’t sure how long he’d be able to restrain himself. Despite the power the warrior-priests had lost, these latter-day embodiments had lost none of their arrogance.

Whatever they say, I was right,” he thought. “I did the only thing I could to protect my convictions, which are not mistaken.”

“Don’t embarrass me. I’m still an amateur. But the world’s full of people who don’t seem to be as good as I am.

He felt a twinge of exasperation. Why did Matahachi persist in considering himself inferior? And why did he attribute his troubles to others? “You blame everything on Okō,” he said firmly, “but is that any way for a full-grown man to talk? Nobody can create a worthwhile life for you but you yourself.”

Go to Edo if you want, but when you get there, you’re going to find people from all over the country, everyone hungry for money and position. You won’t make a name for yourself just doing what the next man does. You’ll have to distinguish yourself in some way.”

“Matahachi,” said Musashi, “why stand there moping? Let’s pray she finds a place where she can settle down and lead a peaceful life, and let it go at that.”

His only problem now was to make sure that he himself did not drown in the deep pool of love.

Jōtarō was like a new plant—stubborn and hardy.

The fountain of love that had comforted her for years had suddenly turned into a raging waterfall.

They say the longer a man goes without facing a challenge, the weaker he becomes.

In the corner of the yard near a storehouse stood the cow, grateful for another day and for the grass growing at her feet.

being presumptuous, but ever since I heard of your feat at Ichijōji,

the more he considered the matter, the less he felt he deserved the esteem in which Geki seemed to hold him. Painfully conscious of his own mistakes and failures, he found Geki’s adulation embarrassing.

Abruptly Geki asked, “Musashi, my friend, for whose sake are you trying to perfect your swordsmanship?” Never having considered the question, Musashi replied with guileless candor, “For my own.”

For the first time, he asked whether it was possible for an insignificant human being to become one with the universe.

They approached slowly, arms folded, looking like an army of crabs.

The man named a figure, which Musashi found, after counting his money, was more than he had. He was not unmindful of the value of money, but being alone, with no one to support, his attitude was on the whole indifferent.

Watching his money go down the road, Musashi felt he had used it for a purpose worthier than that of filling his stomach. Perhaps the laborer, having learned that right conduct can be profitable, would go out on the road the next day and help another traveler.

Punishing criminals without reference to law was a firmly established practice. In the days when the warriors were too busy with warfare to maintain order, townsmen had, for the sake of their own safety, taken it upon themselves to deal with miscreants.

The woods were full of owls, and he had taken to signing his name as “Old Man Owl.” Sometimes he’d smile weakly and say, “I’m an owl, like the others.”

Most of them believed, as they had been taught, that swordsmanship was a matter for ordinary soldiers, not generals. Yet their samurai pride stood in the way of their accepting the logical corollary, which was that they were helpless against an expert swordsman like Sasaki Kojirō.

He was more resolved than ever to go it alone: if that meant being hungry, sleeping out in the open in cold and rain and walking about in filthy rags, then so be it. In his heart was a dream that would never be satisfied by taking a position in Lord Date’s employ, even if his lordship were to offer him his entire three-million-bushel fief.

Civilization, Musashi was thinking, does not flourish until men have learned to exercise control over the forces of nature.

He had come to see the Way of the Sword in a new light. A year or two earlier, he had wanted only to conquer all rivals, but now the idea that the sword existed for the purpose of giving him power over other people was unsatisfying. To cut people down, to triumph over them, to display the limits of one’s strength, seemed increasingly vain. He wanted to conquer himself, to make life itself submit to him, to cause people to live rather than die. The Way of the Sword should not be used merely for his own perfection. It should be a source of strength for governing people and leading them to peace and happiness.

The snow came again, and another thaw; the muddy water oozed slowly over the plain. But Musashi had had time to work out his new approach, and his field remained intact. “The same rules must apply to governing people,” he said to himself. In his notebook, he wrote: “Do not attempt to oppose the way of the universe. But first make sure you know the way of the universe.”

To be real human beings, he told them, they must work for the sake of posterity.

“He must be awfully important. That’s what I want to be when I grow up.” “Important?” “Umm.” “You shouldn’t aim so low.”

“Instead of wanting to be like this or that, make yourself into a silent, immovable giant. That’s what the mountain is. Don’t waste your time trying to impress people. If you become the sort of man people can respect, they’ll respect you, without your doing anything.”

Buckwheat noodles—soba—that’s what he wanted! In the country, if a man wanted soba, he planted buckwheat in the early spring, watched it flower in the summer, dried the grain in the fall, ground the flour in the winter. Then he could make soba.

Kōetsu was always saying that Japanese swords were created not to kill or injure people but to maintain the imperial rule and protect the nation, to subdue devils and drive out evil.

The sword is the samurai’s soul; he carries it for no other purpose than to maintain his own integrity.

I’ve worked on any number of weapons, but none of their owners seem to have an inkling of the sword’s true meaning. I sometimes doubt they have souls to polish.

“The problem seems to be that the older and more famous the sword is, the more the owner is inclined to make sure it’s stored in a safe place. But then nobody can get at it to take care of it, and the blade gets rustier and rustier. “The owners are like parents who protect their children so jealously that the children grow up to be fools.

In the case of children, more are being born all the time—doesn’t make any difference if a few are stupid. But swords…”

At twilight, she made her preparations for battle, first donning a white underrobe she had bought to be buried in and had carried around with her for years. She had had it stamped

He had nothing to go on but the image of Kannon he carried in his heart, and his sole technique was to clear his mind of extraneous thoughts and do his best to faithfully transfer this image to the wood.

I’ve been waiting for years to meet a man like that. I didn’t study military science all this time to teach it to children.

you’re still immature, too immature to recognize the remarkable qualities of the man you just met.”

“My son, while there are many things I want to pass on to you, you’re still immature, too immature to recognize the remarkable qualities of the man you just met.”

“How could I be famous when all I do is loaf around here all day long? I don’t see that I’m outstanding in any way. It’s just that there are so many fakes around.”

After a few more questions concerning family and lineage, Lord Tadatoshi asked, “Will you be going into service for the first time?” “I do not yet know whether I am going into service.”

he had on spotless underwear, in the tradition of the good samurai, who started each day with a smile and an uncertainty: by evening he might be a corpse.

When they finally reached a pine-covered knoll, Musashi made a quick survey of the terrain and said, “This’ll do fine.” To him, any place could serve as home—more than that: wherever he happened to be was the universe.

it was his own experience that led to his decision to emphasize discipline in Iori’s upbringing. If he was going to create a samurai, he should create one for the coming era, not for the past.

“My father has his disciples, and he’s given lectures before the shōgun on military science. But instead of teaching me anything, he told me to go out and learn from somebody else. Find out the hard way! That’s the kind of man he is.”

“If a man not yet thirty claims to know the least bit about the Way, it’s an unmistakable sign his growth has stopped.

Musashi knew he was being accepted in this select circle not because of who he was. He was seeking the Way, just as they were. It was the Way that permitted such free camaraderie.

if they took him seriously, they would feel compelled to warn him: politics leads to destruction; by going into government he would sully his beloved sword. They would do this out of genuine concern for his soul.

An old saying came back to his mind: it is easy to surpass a predecessor, but difficult to avoid being surpassed by a successor. He’d been enjoying the fruits of hard training in his youth, complacent in the knowledge that his Ittō Style was no less flourishing than the Yagyū Style. Meanwhile society was giving birth to new geniuses like Kojirō. The realization came as a bitter shock, but he was not the sort of man to ignore it.

“In my opinion, this is something that happens to all men. Age creeps up on us while we’re not looking. Times change. The followers surpass their leaders. A younger generation opens up a new way….This is the way it ought to be, for the world advances only through change.

Musashi had been trying for some time to unite in a valid principle what he knew instinctively with what he had learned by intellectual means. Now he was close to formulating it in words, and it would make him famous throughout the country for generations to come.

Tōji hadn’t been at Ichijōji, but he had heard how Musashi had fought and had no illusions about who would end up dead if the two of them ran into each other again.

young people do grow up. Old people just get older, no matter how hard they work at staying young.”

the music struck him as having genuine feeling, albeit of the artless sort often expressed in poems by non-poets.

hear you tell it, you’re doing something grand for the sake of other people. In fact, you’re putting yourself before others. Has it not occurred to you that you leave quite a number of people unhappy?” “One can’t consider himself when one is working on behalf of society.” “Stupid fool!” He struck Jōtarō soundly on the cheek with his fist. “One’s self is the basis of everything. Every action is a manifestation of the self. A person who doesn’t know himself can do nothing for others.”

“May I ask one question? Why should men who want to overthrow the Tokugawas be considered traitors? Why aren’t the ones who overthrew the Toyotomis and seized control of the country traitors?” “Don’t ask me,” Takuan answered with a cold stare.

“Admitting an enemy is better than we are is difficult,” Shinzō said thoughtfully. “Still, objectively, Kojirō’s the better swordsman.

Do you know what went wrong?” “I saw no reason to ask. I’m grateful to heaven for the way it turned out.” “But it seems a pity.” “Are even you of the opinion I can find glory only within the walls of Edo Castle?”

don’t misunderstand me. My ideas, I’ve learned, particularly today, are little more than dreams.”

I’ve come to the conclusion that my thoughts are only dreams, childish dreams at that. I must learn to be a humble servant of two gods, one of the sword, one of the pen. Before I attempt to govern the nation, I must learn what the nation has to teach.”

What was left unexplained was why people accepted so unquestioningly what they were told. Not just ordinary people—women gossiping around the well or laborers drinking in cheap sake shops—but men who had the intelligence to sift fact from fabrication.

“Indulging my chronic wanderlust, I am setting out on another aimless journey.

It wasn’t his nature to covet another man’s good fortune nor to think of depriving him of it. He could not think of any act as being apart from the Way of the Samurai; carrying out his grandfather’s wish would in itself have been an expression of his love.

Iori was too serious for his years. He paid close attention to his personal finances, never wasted a thing, was meticulously neat, and felt grateful for every bowl of rice, every fair day. He was, in short, fastidious, and he looked down on people who were not.

Kōetsu offered it to Iori, saying, “Forgive me for offering you leftovers.”

The characters, large and naive, spelled out “Hōkoku Daimyōjin,” the name Hideyoshi was given when he was elevated to the rank of a god after his death.

One thing you can be sure of. If a samurai like that took an official position, it wouldn’t be for the sake of the income. He’d be concerned with how his work measured up to his ideals.

When Nobunaga and Ieyasu attacked Kaisen’s temple and put it to the torch, the priest seated himself calmly in the upper floor of the gate and, while burning to death, uttered the words: “If your heart is obliterated through enlightenment, the fire is cool.”

The curiously amateurish calligraphy brought a smile to the lips of passersby, but Muka said he wasn’t ashamed of it. Whenever it was mentioned, he always replied in the same way: “I’m still a child at heart. I’m practicing along with the children.”

Muka, who was from all appearances one of the many impoverished but honest rōnin making a living by sharing his warrior-class education with the children of commoners.

“Think of a simple yawn. The yawn of a person who’s been working hard is different from the yawn of a lazy man.

Among the possibilities he had considered was choosing the easy way. If he could bring himself to live in a comfortable, ordinary way with Otsū, life would be simple. Almost any fief would be willing to pay him enough to live on, perhaps five hundred to a thousand bushels. But when he put it to himself in the form of a question, the answer was always no. An easy existence imposed restrictions; he could not submit to them.

“It’s not too late. If you learn self-discipline, you can make a fresh start. It’s fatal to tell yourself that it’s all over, that you’re no good.”

They fell silent. They always did at times like this, thoughts of home invariably bringing back memories of Otsū or Osugi or events neither of them wanted to talk about for fear of upsetting their present relationship.

In the end, he had said nothing, for anything he might have said would have been a lie.

Musashi had been surprised when Matahachi had broken down and wept. He hadn’t suspected he was capable of such depth of feeling.

Musashi thought sadly that those who have not suffered from this malady cannot know its agony. It was not a matter merely of being idle, which is often a pleasant state, but of wanting desperately to do something and not being able to.

After they’d gone, he turned back to his pupils. “Come, now,” he said. “You mustn’t let yourselves be distracted. Get back to work. Look at me. I’m practicing too. You have to learn to concentrate so completely that you don’t even hear people talking or cicadas singing. If you’re lazy when you’re young, you’ll turn out like me and have to practice after you’re grown.” He laughed and looked around at the ink-smeared faces and hands.

He was quite prepared to admit to himself that there was something he did not understand, but he thought of it as being one thing. If only he could figure out what it was, his sword would be released from its bonds. Everything else would be solved in an instant. Then just as he felt on the verge of grasping it, it always eluded him.

Comparing himself with his friend, he felt envious. Matahachi’s problems did not seem to disable him. Musashi always seemed to be searching out new problems with which to torture himself.

I laugh at my ten-year pilgrimage— Wilted robe, tattered hat, knocking at Zen gates. In reality, the Buddha’s Law is simple: Eat your rice, drink your tea, wear your clothes.

Musashi glared viciously at the departing pair, his lips set tightly in an angry scowl. “Not one thing.” Reflecting on Gudō’s words, he decided they were deceitful, suggesting the man had something to offer when in fact there was “not one thing” in his foolish head. “Wait and see,” thought Musashi. “I don’t need you!” He would rely on no one. In the final analysis, there was no one to rely on but himself. He was a man, just as Gudō was a man and all the earlier masters had been men.

“A circle? What could it mean?” He let his thoughts flow. A perfectly round line, no beginning, no end, no deviation. If expanded infinitely, it would become the universe. If contracted, it would become coequal with the infinitesimal dot in which his soul resided. His soul was round. The universe was round. Not two. One. One entity—himself and the universe.

The wall against which he had been beating his head was a mere shadow, the shadow of his confused mind.

Since the family was poor, Otsū felt obliged to help with the dyeing, which was the work of the young unmarried women. They often sang as they worked, and villagers said they could tell from the sound of a girl’s voice whether she was in love with one of the young fishermen.

Though he knew it was coming, Musashi had not in his wildest dreams been able to imagine what it would be like to set forth as the champion of a huge number of followers and admirers. The size of the crowd was an embarrassment. It also made it impossible for him to talk as he would have liked to with certain people.

It had started with people saying, “I hear they’re going to have it out.” Later, it was: “Yes, they’re definitely going to face each other.” Still later: “When is the bout?”

It had started with people saying, “I hear they’re going to have it out.” Later, it was: “Yes, they’re definitely going to face each other.” Still later: “When is the bout?” Finally, the very day and hour were being bruited about before

It had started with people saying, “I hear they’re going to have it out.” Later, it was: “Yes, they’re definitely going to face each other.” Still later: “When is the bout?” Finally, the very day and hour were being bruited about before the principals themselves had formally decided them.

What he really wanted was more time to himself for meditation. He needed to develop harmony, to make sure his ideas did not outpace his ability to act.

“It’ll be a test of strength between a man who’s a genius, but really somewhat conceited, and an ordinary man who’s polished his talents to the utmost, won’t it?” “I wouldn’t call Musashi ordinary.” “But he is. That’s what’s extraordinary about him. He’s not content with relying on whatever natural gifts he may have. Knowing he’s ordinary, he’s always trying to improve himself. No one appreciates the agonizing effort he’s had to make. Now that his years of training have yielded such spectacular results, everybody’s talking about his ‘god-given talent.’ That’s how men who don’t try very hard comfort themselves.”

Still, that he could see how churlish he had been was a hopeful sign. At least he’d changed since then. “I suppose,” he thought, “even a stupid fool like me can improve if he stays awake and tries.”

although you should be the first to help when help is needed, you should try to be more modest than the other boys.”

That would bring dishonor not only on me but on many others as well.” “But didn’t you say I should hang on to my life and guard it carefully?” “Yes, I did, and if they bury me on Funashima, let that be a lesson to you and avoid getting into fights that may end in your throwing your life away.”

Lord Sansai had offered a collective stipend of five thousand bushels, which they refused. They were willing to serve him in good faith, but they felt the lord-to-vassal relationship should be on a man-to-man basis. Sansai understood their feelings and came back with an offer of individual stipends.

Out in the street again, he took a parting look at Kojirō’s boat, then at Omitsu. “Everyone has a public and private life,” he thought. “Behind all that fanfare, a woman stands weeping her heart out.”

He saw the white paper as the great universe of nonexistence. A single stroke would give rise to existence within it. He could evoke rain or wind at will, but whatever he drew, his heart would remain in the painting forever. If his heart was tainted, the picture would be tainted; if his heart was listless, so would the picture be. If he attempted to make a show of his craftsmanship, it could not be concealed. Men’s bodies fade away, but ink lives on. The image of his heart would continue to breathe after he himself was gone.

Above Ganryū hovered the prayers and the hopes of those who believed in him and wanted him to live, above Musashi the prayers and hopes of others. Of Sado and Iori, on the island. Of Otsū and Osugi and Gonnosuke, on the beach at Shimonoseki. Of Akemi and Matahachi, on their hill in Kokura. All their prayers were directed to heaven. Here, hopes, prayers and the gods were of no assistance, nor was chance.

Musashi was watching a small cloud in the sky. As he did, his soul returned to his body, and it became possible for him to distinguish between the cloud and himself, between his body and the universe.

Kojirō had put his confidence in the sword of strength and skill. Musashi trusted in the sword of the spirit. That was the only difference between them.