Miyamoto Musashi (c. 1584–1645) is the most revered and celebrated swordsman in Japanese history; unfortunately, our modern portrait of this folk hero is derived mainly from popular books, comics, and film, with little heed paid to the early denki, chronicles that faithfully recorded what was passed down by those who knew Musashi.
The Bukôden is one of the earliest such records still in existence. It was completed in 1755 by Toyoda Masanaga, senior retainer to the Nagaoka, a clan closely involved in the events of Musashi’s later life. Masanaga’s work ranks with the Bushû denraiki as the most reliable records of Musashi’s life and exploits outside those from the hand of the master swordsman himself. Now, for the first time in two-and-a-half centuries, Masanaga’s insight into this enigmatic and solitary swordsman is available to the English reader. It throws a new and refreshing light on many aspects of especially Musashi’s later life—his adoption of Iori, his return to Kyushu in 1634, and of course the gestation of his great work on the philosophy and art of Japanese swordsmanship, the Book of Five Rings.
“As Mr. De Lange’s earlier translation of the Bushû denraiki, this not another retelling or reinterpretation of the great swordsman’s life, but a richly annotated rendition of an early and important text, available for the first time in English.”
William de Lange studied Japanese language and culture at the University of Leiden and at Waseda University in Japan. He is active as a translator and interpreter, and is a practitioner of the Shinkage school of swordsmanship. He is the author of A Dictionary of Japanese Idioms, Pars Japonica: The First Dutch Expedition to Reach the Shores of Japan, and the acclaimed three-volume history Famous Japanese Swordsmen.