map - shimonoseki
map - shimonoseki

webmaster's column - Shimonoseki Present & Past (2)

a painting by Musashi
In my last column, I told about the last battle fought by two samurai families more than 800 years ago, in Shimonoseki. This time, I am going to introduce another samurai battle, no less well known than the last one. It is the story about Ganryu-jima, or Ganryu island, very close to our location.

The duel of Ganryu island was fought in 1612, by and between two legendary swordsmasters, Kojiro Sasaki and Musashi Miyamoto. Born as low-ranked samurai, Musashi sought through the haze of suffering to find his place as swordsmaster. After winning and winning sixty real-sword duels, he found the biggest rival ever : Kojiro Sasaki. The greatest and final duel of his life was then fought in Ganryu Island. Musashi won it, by killing Kojiro mercilessly, and quit the life of duel after duel.

This story was carried down, through generations, by word of mouth or in form of theatrical entertainment. However, it is Eiji Yoshikawa, popular novel writer, who fixed the image of struggling Musashi indelibly upon the national consciousness. His novel "Musashi" was published daily in 1935-1939 in serial form in a newspaper. When the writer completed the novel with part 1013, it became a part of Japanese culture.

Musashi Miyamoto - portrait
Since then, "Musashi" has been adapted for radio, cinema, stage and television repeatedly, with big commercial success in almost every case. In 2003, NHK took it up again to produce a long TV drama running for a year, and recreated a boom for the legendary swordman, once again.

The novel is also translated in many languages. In English, it is entitled "Musashi" (as you guess!) and available in paperback form. Why don't you read it, if you are interested in the life of the ultimate duelist, who is also known as master painter and author of "The Book of Five Rings", book of competitive strategy? Ah? Too long to read? Okay, then, how about cinema ? The three-part film, entitled "Samurai", with Toshiro Mifune acting as Musashi, should be available for buy or rent, in your country too - I hope !

The small Ganryu-jima has become a big magnet for tourist now, and there are many ferry services between the isle and the center port of Shimonoseki. According to lore, the island was originally called Funa-jima, "Boat Island", after its contour. The name was changed after the duel, to commemorate the man who died there : Ganryu, or "big rock school" is the name of swordsplay school created by Kojiro Sasaki. (by T. Miyoshi, written October 2003) [2005/01/25]

(picture on top : A morning at Ganryu-jima)

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