A trip to Miyamoto-mura in Okayama, searching for the roots of Musashi Miyamoto.
The swordsman Musashi Miyamoto survived many battles between the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1600) and the Edo period (1603-1868).
The most famous episode was his battle against Kojiro Sasaki, who was also a well-known swordsman.
It is said that Musashi defeated Kojiro with a wooden sword made from a boat paddle, and thus it came to be believed that there was no one who could win in battle with Musashi Miyamoto.
Although many stories about his various exploits have been told, the facts about Musashi are still little known, and most of them are mysterious.
Who was Musashi Miyamoto?
I visited “Miyamoto-mura (village)” in Mimasaka City, Okayama, which was introduced as the birthplace of Musashi in the novel “Musashi Miyamoto.”
“Miyamoto Musashi Station,” at which only local trains on Chizu Express Line stop, is very unique station, because the name of the station is a person’s name!
You will find a statue of Takezo (Musashi in his youth) in front of the station.
In this area you can see Musashi Budo-kan (a gymnasium for martial arts), and the monument and house where Musashi was born, about a 700m walk from Miyamoto Musashi station.
The shrine in the picture is “Sanomo Shrine” which is next to Musashi’s house.
It is said that Munisai Shinmen, the father of Musashi, was also a master of swordplay.
Musashi was resistant to his father’s swordsmanship when he was a kid.
Also Musashi was rowdy, so much that the villagers were afraid of him.
Many people who do kendo (Japanese fencing) visit “Musashi Shrine” in order to worship the master swordsman.
You will arrive at “Musashi Shrine” which is dedicated to Musashi himself when you walk 3 minutes along the Kamazaka azalea field from the house where he was born.
There are votive pictures used to pray for progress in kendo, and retired bamboo swords are dedicated at the main hall.
In the beautiful forest to the right side of the main hall lies the grave of Musashi and his father, Munisai
Some of Musashi’s ashes were buried in this grave by Iori, who was his adopted son when Musashi passed away in Kumamoto.
By burying a portion of his ashes here, Iori allowed Musashi to “come home.”
“Gorinbo” is a place where you can see, know, and experience Musashi.
“Gorinbo” has a museum of dedicated to Miyamoto Musashi, and there is also a cafeteria, a hot spring, and a kendo training hall.
It also has lodgings on the second floor of the main building, and many kendo players come here for training in summer.
The annex called Koryu-kan (exchange hall) has a tea-ceremony room, and some rooms in which small numbers of people can stay overnight.
The leaves of the trees in the garden turn red in the autumn, from around the end of October to the beginning of November.
It would be a great season to visit and feel the elegance of a Japanese autumn.
“Musashi Shiryo-kan (museum)” is inside of the main building of Gorinbo.
You can see a replica of the “Gorin-no-sho” which is one of the representative books of military strategy in Japanese history.
The actual “Gorin-no-sho” was treated as a secret, and was never found after Musashi entrusted it to his apprentices.
This handguard of a sword is displayed with a certificate which shows it was actually made by Musashi, and is not a replica!
If you would like to have a guide in the museum, there is a free service (only in Japanese) if you make a reservation before your visit.
If you are a kendo fencer and have your equipment, maybe it is a good chance to do training at the kendo training hall “Musashi Dojo.”
The fee for a day is 700 yen.
But please note that there is no equipment rental, so you have to bring your own.
The motif of Musashi Budo-kan is a sword guard named “Namako-sukashi tsuba.”
The prominent design of Musashi Budo-kan is based on the sword guard “Namako-sukashi Tsuba” (openwork sword guard shaped like a sea cucumber) made by Musashi.
The main arena in this big hall has 6 kendo courts and can be also used for some ball games such as volleyball.
Seeing so many places related to Musashi Miyamoto is a good way to help you to think about the mysterious figure of Musashi.
Also, it would be interesting to imagine your own story of Musashi after your trip.
Address／94, Miyamoto, Mimasaka-shi, Okayama
Nearest station／Chizu Express Miyamoto Musashi Station
Admission fee／500 yen for Musashi Shiro-kan (museum)
Accommodation charge／from 7,000 yen (including dinner and breakfast/2 adults using 1 room) and from 3,900 yen (staying overnight without meals)
*Feel free to ask about the various accommodation plans they have.
Address／754-1, Imaoka, Mimasaka-shi, Okayama
Charge／2,000 yen to 4,000 yen per hour for main arena
Closed／Saturday, Sunday, and National holidays
Photographs and text by Chiaki Sawasaka
Chiaki Sawasaka Born in Okayama Prefecture. Returned home in 2010. I used to work as a systems engineer, but since coming back, I have been working on producing local magazines, organization advertising, and organization management. I love discovering stunning natural phenomena that stops me in my tracks, and warmhearted people filled with kindness. I’m going to do my best to write about and convey interesting information on the good places, good people, and good things in and around Okayama.
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