Takada Matabei Yoshitsugu

Takada Matabei Yoshitsugu (1590–1671) was a famous warrior who hailed from the province of Iga (today’s Mie prefecture). Born in the village of Shirakashi (today part of Ueno city), he moved to Nara at a young age to study the art of fighting with the lance under Nakamura Ichiemon Naomasa (1583–1652), one of the star deshi of the great Hōzōin Inei (1521–1607), the famous abbot of the Kōfuku temple and founder of the Hōzōin school of spear fighting.

It is believed that, in his twenties Matabei moved to Edo to open his own dôjô, attracting more than four thousand followers. In 1623, at the age of thirty-four, he entered the service of Ogasawara Tadazane, then still lord of the Akashi fiefdom in Harima. Like Musashi’s son, Iori, Matabei moved down with lord Tadazane to Kokura on the southern island of Kyushu, and participated in the siege of Hara castle during the Shimabara rebellion.

Given that Matabei’s stay at Akashi and later at Kokura coincided with that of Musashi, it is almost certain that he and Musashi practiced together regularly, although there would have been many dōjō in Akashi and Kokura. It was during Musashi’s time in Kokura that, according to the Bushū denraiki, he and Matabei engaged in a friendly duel in the presence of Lord Tadazane. The record describes how:

武州は常の使ひ木刀二刀にて立合る。又兵衛、十文字の竹刀にて立向ふ。武州、中段の位にて三本迄入込る。三本目の時、「今のは當りたり。然れ共、下りて足に當れり」との玉ふ。見物の面々も見留めざると也。

Musashi was armed with his inseparable two bokutô, while Matabei faced him with a cross-shaped yari made of bamboo. Up to three times Musashi charged, his bokutô held in a chûdan position. The third time round he said: “This time I touched you, but the tip of your yari deflected, striking my leg.” It seems that this had even escaped those who had been looking on.


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