Kuroda Yoshitaka (1545–1604)

To find out more about Musashi’s first host of sorts during his youth we first have to turn to his proclivities in old age. The Bushū denraiki describes how:

武州、老年に至り、命終の所を可極と被存立。古郷と云、武勇と云、黒田の御家か、又は、兵法数寄にてある間、細川の家かに可致とて、先筑前に被下。

In old age Musashi began to think about a place where he could spend the end of his life. Thinking about his home town and military prowess it was the house of Kuroda that sprang to mind first, but when it came to the elegant pursuits of heihō, it was the house of Hosokawa that was foremost in his mind. Preoccupied with these thoughts he decided to at least make his way to the province of Chikuzen.

We now know why is was that Musashi first thought of the Kuroda, for it is now clear that Musashi’s father, Muni, had entered the service of Kuroda Toshitaka before the Battle of Sekigahara (see Musashi's Father). When Toshitaka died in 1596, Muni entered the service of his brother Kuroda Yoshitaka, whose headquarters of Nakatsu castle still crown this otherwise uninspiring coastal town. From the Bushū denraiki, written in 1815 by Tanji Hōkin, we also know that not long after Muni had moved down to Kyushu, Musashi decided to seek out his father out at his new home in the port of Nakatsu (see Nakatsu Port).

Little is known about Musashi’s time in Nakatsu. Musashi at this time was still in his late teens, and while his father might have been a senior fencing instructor to the Kuroda clan, it is not likely that a boy of Musashi’s age would have had been in the position to establish any personal rapport with a daimyō of Yoshitaka’s stature. Yet it is clear from the Bushū denraiki that he did participated in the siege of Tomiku castle, only one of a string of sieges through which Yoshitaka brought northern Kyushu under Tokugawa control (see Musashi’s Battles).

Musashi probably stayed with his father until 1605, when, at the age of twenty-one, he went up to Kyoto to seek out the Yoshioka brothers to challenge them to a duel. From that point onwards, until Musashi shows up in himeji to seek out Honda Tadamasa, it is unclear where Musashi exactly stayed, for it was during this period, when he was in his twenties, that the swordsman traveled the country extensively on his many musha shugyō. And while he stayed at certain places for extended periods of time (Kyoto, Edo, Kokura, Kitsuki), it was only later in life, when he sought to settle down, that he accepted the invitation of powerful daimyō (with the means to support him for extended periods of time) to be their guest.

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