Ujii Yashirō Mitsunari

Ujii (formerly Urinnin) Yashirō Mitsunari (1581–1669) studied the Shintō-ryū under his father, but at a young age took an interest in the Yagyū Shinkage-ryū, which he practiced under Yagyū Muneyishi’s star deshi, Murata Yazō. He became such a good representative of the Yagyū Shinkage-ryū that he was regularly dispatched to daimyo who patronized the school, among them Matsudaira Tadaakira (1583–1644), the master of Kōriyama castle, in the province of Yamato, and Hosokawa Tadatoshi when he still had his headquarters in Kokura castle.

Following Tadatoshi’s move to Kumamoto, Yashirō seems to have stayed on in Kokura and temporarily become an instructor in the service of its new lord, Ogasawara Tadazane (1596–1667). However, in the spring of 1633 (well before Musashi joined his son, Iori, in Kokura), Yashirō too moved to Kumamoto, where three years later, he became private fencing instructor to Tadatoshi’s retired father, Tadaoki, who was by then residing in Yatsushiro castle, some twenty miles south along the coast from Kumamoto.

It was the lackluster performance of his retainers, who, according to the Bushū denraiki, had duelled at Shiota Hamanosuke’s yashiki that impelled Hosokawa Tadatoshi to call in the help of Yashirô in a final test of Musashi’s superiority in the art of swordsmanship.

The Bukôden describes how:

時に武公、小倉より召に應じて肥後に来。忠利公懇望にて、武公と弥四良と御前に於て勝負を決しむ。

One day, in response to a summons from Lord Tadatoshi, Musashi left Kokura and went down to Higo, for it was his lordship’s wish that Musashi and Yashirô have a match in his presence.

According to the same record:

武公弥四郎と太刀を持て立合の事、三度に及と雖、一向弥四良より打出事不叶。武公も御前故、只敵の技を押へて強く打事なし。

Musashi had three bouts with Yashirô, brandishing his tachi, but not once was Yashirô able to break through his defense. Given that they were fighting in his lordship’s presence, Musashi, on his side, satisfied himself with merely countering Yashirô’s attacks, without ever striking out forcefully.

It was Yashirô’s failure to perform on top of that of his three retainers earlier on that drove Hosokawa Tadatoshi to persuade Musashi to come to Kumamoto and teach the Niten Ichi school as the new school of swordsmanship of the Hosokawa clan.


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