Kokura castle

In the fascinating narrative of Musashi’s life, Kokura castle has come to be inextricably linked to Musasashi’s duel with Sasaki Kōjirō. It was to Kokura, after all, that the twenty-eight-year-old Musashi came to challenge Kōjirō to a duel. It was at Kokura castle that Kōjirō taught his Gan school of swordsmanship to Hosokawa Tadaoki’s many retainers. And it was from Kokura castle, too, that Tadaoki sought to controll the commotion in the run-up and wake of this epic duel.

Later in life, when his son, Iori, had moved to Kokura with his master, Ogasawara Tadazane, Musashi also temporarily came to live with his son on the castle grounds of Kokura castle. And it was during this period, according to the Bushū denraiki, he had his well-known bout with Takagi Umanosuke Shigesada:

武州、大太刀を逆手に持、右馬允が打所を入込て、面を強くひしぐ。ひしがれて身のヽる所を、身をかけて、大指を以て胸をばぐつと突て、あをのけに突倒す。右馬允恐怖し、見物の面々肝膾を作る。

Holding his large tachi in a backhand grip Musashi stooped as Umanosuke lunged toward him and struck him hard in the face. Umanosuke was thrown back by the impact, but before he knew it Musashi was upon him, thrusting his thumb in Umanosuke’s solar plexus and causing him to fall over backward. Umanosuke was terrified and the onlookers were dumbfounded.

Kokura caslte was also the place where Musashi experienced one of the most painful events in his life: the loss of his one-and-only natural child. Tachibana Minehira, alias Tanji Hōkin, is the only one to recount this episode in Musashi’s life in his Bushū denraiki:

武州は、悲嘆限りなく、朝から夕方まで小児の死骸を膝に置いて、嘆き暮らされた。さまざまに申し上げ慰めても、一向に聞き受けられない。武州には不似合な行いだと、隨仕の面々もいう...その後、死骸を葬ったのかとも問われなかった。生涯、その女児の話をされることはなかったという

Musashi was inconsolable with grief and wept from dawn till dusk while he cradled the remains of the infant in his lap. People tried to console him but he did not hear them. Even his followers said that this was unbecoming in their master...I did not even hear whether he buried the remains, for throughout his life Musashi never again talked about the baby girl.



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