Miyamoto Musashi: A Life in Arms

A Biography of Japan’s Greatest Swordsman

By William de Lange

First to translate two of the oldest accounts of Musashi’s career—the Bushû denraiki and the Bukôden—the author here presents a full biography of this most famous yet most enigmatic of Japanese swordsmen. In doing so, he draws extensively on a wealth of additional and often neglected sources to reconstruct the meandering course of Musashi's eventful life: his dramatic encounter with Sasaki Kojirô on Ganryû island, his multiple bouts with the famed Yoshioka brothers, and the remarkable gestation of his life’s influential work: The Book of Five Rings.

In the course of this highly readable account many of the convenient myths that have arisen around Musashi are debunked, while the more controversial incidents of the warrior’s life that have been left hidden, perhaps deliberately, are uncovered: his troubled relationship with his father, his whereabouts during the battle of Sekigahara and the siege of Osaka castle, and the birth and death of an illegitimate child, an event that deeply influenced his practice. The biography reveals how Musashi’s path through life was shaped by strong personal traits: his reckless valor in the face of danger, his sensitive intelligence in the fields of art and architecture, his generosity toward peers and pupils, and his defiant stubbornness in old age. The complex yet human portrait that arises is a far cry from the accepted one-dimensional caricature of this medieval swordsman.

William de Lange studied Japanese language and culture at the University of Leiden and at Waseda University in Japan. He is active as a translator and interpreter, and is a practitioner of the Shinkage school of swordsmanship. De Lange is the author of The Real Musashi: Origins of a Legend, Volumes I and II, translations of the Bushû denraiki and the Bukôden; the three-volume history of medieval Japan Famous Japanese Swordsmen; as well as Pars Japonica: The First Dutch Expedition to Reach the Shores of Japan.

280 pp, 6 x 9, Soft
11 maps and charts, glossary, bibliography, index
Lists of historical periods, castles, temples, shrines, and battles
ISBN: 978-1-891640-62-9