Himeji castle

In the summer of 1617, Musashi was the guest of Honda Tadamasa, the new lord of Himeji castle. Both of them had taken part in the siege of Osaka castle, and on the swordsman’s request, he made Musashi’s adopted son, Mikinosuke a page to his eldest son, Tadatoki.

Not everyone in Himeji was as hospitable as Tadamasa. Some of the senior Honda retainers were unhappy with Musashi’s presence. They were outraged by the blatant effrontery with which Musashi was promoting his Enmei school of swordsmanship. Not long after he had met with Honda Tadamasa, he had opened a dōjo in Himeji where he built up a large following of devoted students from all over the region.

Most offensive to Tadamasa’s newly arrived retainers was a large signboard Musashi had erected in front of his dojo that read: Musashi, Japan’s Foremost Master of Swordsmanship.” The majority of Tadamasa’s men were practitioners of the Tôgun-ryû, a school of swordsmanship that had its origin in the Toda-ryû, which in turn went back to the ancient Chûjô-ryû. Founded by the great Kawasaki Kaginosuke, the Tôgun school of swordsmanship was considered by many to be the official fencing style of the house of Honda. Whenever they passed his dojo on some errand they returned to their quarters with more exasperated tales of the eccentric braggart with his odd style of dressing, his long hair, and his unusual style of fighting with two swords.

Word of the unrest among his retainers came to Tadamasa’s ears and before long he felt compelled to act. The Bisan hōkan describes how:

本多忠政は、これを聞いて、「宮本が真に日本一の達人ならば、我が家臣にしよう。もしそうでなければ、試合して恥辱を与えて放逐するがよい」という。そこで、姫路藩士第一の剣客、三宅軍太夫を遣わして、武蔵の武芸を試験させることになった。

When Honda Tadamasa heard of the unrest he said, “If Musashi really is the greatest swordsman in the realm, I would want to make him one of my retainers. If he is not, the shame of defeat in duel will surely make him leave on his own accord.” At this he summoned Himeji’s chief swordsman, Miyake Gundayū, and instructed him to put Musashi’s martial skills to the test.



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