The Samurai Trilogy (1967)

 

 

 

 

Director:    Hiroshi Inagaki.

Starring:    Toshir Mifune (Musashi Miyamoto), Koji Tsuruta, Mariko Okada, Kaoru Yachigusa, Michiyo Kogure.

The movie presents a sweeping saga of the change of an unruly youth into the legendary 17th-century samurai swordsman Musashi Miyamoto set against a devastating civil war.

 

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

 

Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto.

1600 A. D.  A battle is coming between the armies of the East and West for supremacy in Medieval Japan.

Takezo is sitting in a tree talking to his friend Matahachi.  He tells his buddy that he is going to be famous after his first battle.  After all, he has nobody to take into consideration, while Matahachi has his mother and his girlfriend Otsu.   He will become known as Takezo the "warrior".  Otsu does not want Matahachi to go to war with his friend Takezo.  It seems that she has gotten Matahachi to agree, but as Takezo crosses a stream on his way to fight he is met by Matahachi who is going with him.  And they soon will be involved in action fas the Battle of Sekigahara is about to begin. 

The friends are digging trenches when suddenly troop after troops run by yelling "Run!  Quickly!  We've been routed!"  But this does not discourage Takezo at all.  He sees this as his chance to prove himself.  He starts running to the front line.  There are dead bodies all around the battlefield.  Takezo meets some of the enemy and does very well in killing quite a few.  Matahachi gets wounded.  Enemy horsemen approach and Takezo and Matahachi play dead.  Takezo helps Matahachi off the battlefield.  The wounded man thinks he is going to die and asks Takezo to look after Otsu after he passes.  But that is not to be.  They reach an isolated farm house and go inside.  Takezo acts really tough and demands from the mother and daughter there that they keep quiet and give them some food.  But then both men pass out. 

Two months later.  Matahachi's wound is healing but it is still not completely healed.  The young daughter asks Matahachi what is the problem with Takezo.  Matahachi says that he has always been rather ruthless.  The girl is obviously very happy that they are here.  The women are alone and rather lonely.  Matahachi tells her that he and his friend thought they could become samurai:  "What a dream!"  Matahachi grabs the girl and pulls her into the hay.  He starts to kiss her, but she pulls away and runs to Takezo who is riding a horse.  She asks him for a ride and he pulls her up onto the horse.  Takezo rides so fast that the girl becomes scared and they both fall off.  The girl embraces Takezo, but he only says "Women!" and pulls away. 

Eight bandits warn the girl and her mother that they better get out of the area.  They will be back to take what they want.  The women tell their male guests what happened.  Takezo wonders what valuables these poor women could have.  But they do have valuables because they strip the bodies of the dead samurai.  Mother says that the brigand leader killed her husband who was also a brigand. 

True to their word, the bandits come back to the house.  They start to search the place.  One of the bandits grabs mother in an attempted assault.  Takezo arrives and starts to fight them.  He is such a great fighter that he starts dispatching bandit after bandit and half the crew runs away.  Takezo kills the last bandit still around.  Mother is so impressed by Takezo that she tells him to "take me".  She adds:  "I love you."   Takezo just runs away from her.  Mom then tells her daughter and Matahachi that Takezo tried to assault her.  Mom begs Matahachi to stay with her and her daughter. 

The girl really likes Takezo and she is very upset.  She goes outside and shouts for Takezo.  She cries. 

When Takezo returns he is mad because Matahachi has fled with the two women.  He decides to leave the house too.  At a beautiful waterfall he yells:  "You fool, Matahachi!" 

Matahachi and the two women run into the bandits.  Matahachi tries to avoid a fight, but is forced to take action.  He manages to kill one of the bandits and the rest run away.  Matahachi then sits down and cries. 

Takezo has decided to return to his village.  But when he reaches a military checkpoint they say that he is a brigand and try to arrest him.  Takezo will not stand for this and he resists, killing some of the guards as he escapes. 

In the village Otsu talks with Priest Takuan.  News arrives that Takezo has broken through the military checkpoint.  Now the authorities are coming to harass Takezo's relatives, even if the relatives say they are only "distant" relatives of the man.  The relatives say that Takezo was always uncontrollable.  They outlawed him because of this.  The authorities say that all his relatives will help in the search for Takezo.  Matahachi's mother claims that she hates Takezo because he left her son behind to die alone.  Otsu is shocked at the claim.  She cries saying to herself:  "Matahachi, where are you?"  Suddenly she sees Takezo.  A guard also sees Takezo and the hunted man kills the guard.  Hundreds of people are now on the hunt for Takezo.  And now the authorities arrest all the Takezo relatives as bait.  Matahachi's mother takes Otsu in with her. 

Takezo shows up in the village.  He tells Otsu that Matahachi is alive.  He adds:  "I hate this village."  He is given some food and he cries.  Otsu still has bitter feelings toward Takezo because she still thinks Takezo should not have come back to the village without Matahachi.  But Takezo feels he cannot tell her the real reason why Matahachi did not return to the village.  One day at the house of Matahachi's mother the troops suddenly show up.  Takezo is mad as hell at the woman.  He renounces her son out loud and kills some more troops.  He runs into the forest and gets away.  Reinforcements arrive and now there is the feeling that Takezo is trapped. 

Otsu gets a letter from Matahachi's wife telling her that she married him and he is not going to leave her.  She should, therefore, get on with her life and not wait for Matahachi.  Otsu cries.  Takezo jumps a man accusing him of being one of the hunters after him.  The man denies it and Takezo leaves him alone. 

The priest says he is going to the mountains.  He is going to capture Takezo without force.  Otsu wants to go with him.  At first the priest is not sure, but Otsu prevails.  At night camp she plays the flute.  This attracts Takezo who makes an appearance.  He asks the Priest:  "Why are you here?"  The answer is:  "To capture you."  The Priest then starts laying a guilt trip on Takezo asking him about the fate of his relatives.  Takezo at first says:  "Hang them all!"  But the Priest persists with his questions and subdues the basically good-hearted Takezo.  

The news spreads quickly in the village that the Buddhist monk has captured Takezo.  When Takezo is brought back, the villagers tie him up with rope and then hoist him up and leave him hanging from a large branch.  They want to harm Takezo, but the Priest shouts:  "Leave him be or I will set him free!"   He says he doesn't care what happens to himself:  "Deliver my head to Himeji Castle to Lord Iketa." 

Otsu now begins to feel sorry for Takezo hanging up in the tree.  She tells the Priest that he is too cruel and to let Takezo down.  The Priest just says it is not any of her business.  She calls him a devil and a demon, but he won't relent.  Then one evening the priest comes to speak with Takezo.  He wants to know if the man has had an awakening and will repent of his wrong doings.  The priest doesn't really like Takezo's responses and tells him that he will behead Takezo in the morning.  But later that night Otsu frees Takezo.  He starts running away and she follows after him.  Takezo stops to say to her:  "I am such a fool.  I apologize."  He then bandages her hands that are bleeding from the rope burns she received letting Takezo down.  Takezo tells her that he cannot go back.  Otsu says that once she hated him, but not now.  The soldiers find the escaping pair.  They capture Otsu but Takezo kills some more troops and escapes. 

Matahachi's mother tells her people that they will kill both Otsu and Takezo to protect the old lady's name.  But for now Otsu is safe.  This does not stop Takezo from launching an attempt to find Otsu and take her with him.  The priest finds Takezo and shouts to Takezo that he will tell him where Otsu is.  She is near the bridge of Hanada.  The priest takes Takezu into a house and has Takezu climb up into the attic to see Otsu.  When Takezu is up in the attic the priest closes the attic off and locks it.  Takezu starts yelling:  "You dirty, lying rogue!"  The priest only tells him to read all the books up in the attic and master them.  Otsu will wait for him while he improves his mind. 

Kyoto.  The mother and young girl (named Akemi) that harbored the soldiers Takezo and Matahachi now live in the capital city.  Akemi, now 21 years of age, plays a banjo-like instrument for a young nobleman named Seijuro.  Mother is still married to Matahachi, but she is having an affair with another man.  This other man wants them to offer Akemi to Seijuro for a large sum of money.  Matahachi talks with his wife telling her:  "You would sell your own daughter" not realizing that he is right on the mark with this comment.  He also tells his wife that she has destroyed his life.  Mother responds with ridicule, negatively comparing him to the "real" man Takezo.  Matahachi thinks about Otsu. 

Three years later.  Takezo is out of the attic.  He now has begun his moral training required as part of the preparation for service for the Himejii Castle.  Matahachi is absolutely miserable. 

Takezo is now named Miyamoto Musashi.  He is now to go traveling as part of his preparation.  But first he wants to see Otsu to say good-bye.  The priest is very opposed to this.  He tells Musashi:  "Cut yourself off from the past."   But Musashi walks over to the place where Otsu works in a restaurant.  He sees her working, but then turns to leave.  Otsu sees him and runs to him.  She tells him that she has been waiting for him.  But he tells her:  "Otsu. Give me up for dead."  She asks him:  "Then why did I wait for three years?"  She blames the priest for doing this to her and Musashi.  Otsu pleads with him to take her with him.. Musashi relents and says she can come.  She is very happy and runs back to the restaurant to get a few of her things.  When she returns, Musashi is gone.  But he writes her a note on the planks of Hanada Bridge:  "Soon I will be back!" and "Forgive me!"

 

Good movie.  We see the great difficulty for a poor man to become a samurai.  Takezo is a tremendous fighter but remains anonymous.  It finally takes a Buddhist priest to realize the man's great potential.   He uses very unusual methods to start the re-education and training of Takezo.  Now Takezo finally is on his rise on the social ladder.  But this causes problems for him with the woman he loves:  Otsu. The great actor Toshir Mifune plays the part of Takezo (Musashi Miyamoto) and he does an excellent job. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple

Takezo travels in search of knowledge to complete his character as a respectable samurai.  He has a duel scheduled.  He shows up at an old temple.  There he finds a boy named Jotaro sleeping.  He tells the boy to leave because a duel is going to take place at this location.  It's dangerous.  The boys knows all about it, just like he knows that Takezo is Musashi Miyamoto.  And he knows the duel is with Old Baiken.  So Takezo lets the boy stay where he is.  Old Baiken shows up and the duel begins.  Takezo kills his opponent. 

Takezo continues on his journey with the young boy following him.  An old samurai who saw Takezo duel tells him that though he is strong, he is not mentally relaxed.  Therefore, Takezo is not a true samurai, just a very tough man.  He adds that Takezo is too strong.  Remember, he says, he won't always be strong.  He needs more finesse.  Takezo takes the advice seriously. 

In the capital of medieval Japan, Kyoto.  Otsu waits patiently for Takezo to return.  She sells fans at the bridge.  Akemi stops to talk with her.  She admires her for patiently waiting for her lover.  Akemi explains that she too is looking for someone.  And thanks to Otsu she has now regained her hope.  Akemi's mother's lover arrives at the bridge and drags Akemi away to see the professor. 

At the Yoshioka School.  Takezo is fighting man after man of the Yoshioka School of swordsmanship.  He has killed two of the men and wounded many more.  One of the students says:  "We shouldn't have despised him."  Takezo asks for a match with the professor of the school in person.  But the feeling is that the challenger is just a nameless back-country fencer.  Akemi's mother's lover decides to trick Takezo.  He won't let the professor fight.  Takezo writes a letter to the professor asking for a match with him at the Sanjuro Bridge.  If he does not hear from the professor he will announce that he has defeated the Yoshioka School.  Akemi's mother's lover wants to get the professor's brother Denshichiro to fight him.  The professor reads the letter out loud and mentions Takezo.  Akemi is there and she wants to know if it is her Takezo.  The professor seems worried and asks Akemi if she knows the man.  She answers yes, he is the man she wanted to see.  She adds that she must tell Matahachi and runs off.   Mom's lover tells her to stop Akemi.  Mom is too late.  Matahachi asks his wife if she is trying to victimize Akemi.  He then pushes his wife down onto the floor. 

A well-known sword polisher refuses to polish Takezo's sword.  He says he cannot help a killer disguised as a swordsman.  Takezo gets mad and leaves.  But he comes back and asks the man again.  This time the man is much more pleasant.  He says that he is not good enough to polish his sword.  Instead he tells Takezo about his own teacher, Master Koetsu Honami.  Takezo goes to see him.  While there, Takezo learns about another excellent swordsman:  Kojiro Sasaki.  But Takezo cannot stay to meet him. 

The swordsmen of the Yoshioka School end up killing the wrong man thinking he was Takezo.  Matahachi runs over to comfort the man.  He asks the wounded man if he can fulfill a last request for him.  The dying man gives a diploma to Matahachi and asks him to give it to Kojiro Sasaki. 

The professor demands that Akemi tell him who is this Takezo.  She refuses, but he tells her that he knows who he is already.  He is his enemy.  The professor then acts very unprofessionally and rapes Akemi.  Akemi's cries for help to her mother are ignored, largely because of mom's obnoxious lover.  Following the rape Akemi gives her mother such a strange look.  Mom tries to go to her, but the sleaze balls stops her again.

Takezo shows up at the bridge.  There Otsu sees him.  She hugs him and slightly thumps him on the chest with closed fists.  Takezo asks her to forgive him.  She tells him that she traveled for over a year in search of him.  He tells her that he dreamed about her every night.  But he can't continue with her:  "I became wiser and greedier.  I suffered between my love of you and of my sword."  He then basically says he prefers his sword to her.  Otsu says she knows that.  The sleaze ball and the students from the Yoshioka School suddenly show up to kill Takezo.  They try to but Takezo slices up one after another.  He then tries to get away by heading into the river under the bridge.  We see him still fighting off the men on the river shore.  Another swordsman shows up on the bridge.  He tells the sleaze ball that the man they are trying to kill is too good for them and he should rethink the plan.  Sleaze ball makes fun of the swordsman and challenges him.  The swordsman swings his sword and cuts off the sleaze ball's top-knot.  Sleaze ball is very scared by the demonstration of great swordsmanship.

Otsu goes down by the river shore to find Takezo.  There Akemi sees and follows her.  Akemi sees her and says that she saw Takezo, but he went away.  Akemi then says that means that she must be Otsu.  Otsu wants to know how Akemi knows her name.  Akemi laughs.  She says:  "I'm the girl that Takezo promised to marry."  Otsu says:  "That's not true.  It can't be."  Akemi tells her that she cannot have Takezo.  She was going to kill herself, but now she realizes that Takezo is her life and she won't give him up.

The distraught Otsu goes to see the priest.  He introduces her to the boy that was following Takezo around. 

Somehow Akemi winds up with the swordsman who cut off the top-knot of Akemi's mother's lover.  The swordsman is actually the expert Kojiro Sasaki and he seems to have taken a liking to Akemi.  Akemi says that she is in love with Takezo.  She says that all men are liars, except Takezo.  She has to find him.  She must tell him that she loves him.  The sleaze ball and the students show up again.  This time they have come to get Akemi.  But the expert swordsman will not give her to them.  They end up down by the shore to fight.  The swordsman kills two of the students and prepares to kill more when the professor shows up and asks Kojiro Sasaki to stop. 

Koetsu Honami, the greatest virtuoso of Japanese fine arts, has taken Takezo to Ohgiya, the most fashionable club in Kyoto.  A woman dances for them.  After her dance, she talks with the two men, but Takezo proves very shy. 

The professor tells sleaze ball that he has smeared his School's name.  At this time the professor's brother shows up.  He asks his brother the professor:  "What about our ruined name?"  The brother now definitely wants to find and kill Takezo.  The students of the school start asking around for Takezo in the hope of finding him.  The sleaze ball goes underneath a house to listen to the conversation of a woman who he thinks knows where Takezo is.  He learns that he is with Lady Yoshino.  He goes to the club and gives a note to a woman to give to Takezo.  The note says:  "At the Rengein Temple yard, at 9 tonight.  Denshichiro Yoshioka."

Takezo starts to leave but the woman who delivered the note to him says he must see Lady Yoshino before he goes.  She takes him to her.  Lady Yoshino tries to get close to Takezo, but he is reluctant.  She asks him if he is afraid of her.  She then tells him that he lacks human affection. 

The professor looks at the dead body of his brother.   Kojiro Sasaki warns the professor not to fight Musashi.  The professor has confined Akemi.  He tells her he is going to fight Takezo and wants her blessing, but she refuses to give it.  Instead she says that she will be praying for Takezo.  The professor says:  "I curse you!"  Outside Akemi's mother and her lover, the sleaze ball, have their money from the professor and are leaving.  Mother asks about Akemi but her lover tells her that Akemi will be all right. 

Matahachi bumps into his mother, Osugi.  She blames all her son's difficulties on Takezo.  Matahachi shows his mother the diploma from the Chujo School.  He says he studied under Master Itoh. But why does the diplomas say Kojiro Sasaki?  Because, says Matahachi, he changed his name. 

Musashi says he is going to the duel because they are calling him a coward.  Lady Yoshino remarks that Musashi is the "one and only heartfelt love I've ever had." 

At the dueling site, Musashi is surrounded by students of the Yoshioka School.  Kojiro Sasaki arrives and tells the students to fight like samurai and not here.  Kojiro Sasaki then introduces himself to Musashi.  Musashi, of course, has heard of him.  The students tells Musashi that the professor will show up tomorrow at 5 a.m. at the Ichijo Temple.  Musashi agrees to be there.  The students put up a public notice announcing the duel.  Otsu is going to become a nun and the priest is just about to cut off her hair.  But Jotaro, the young boy, comes running to Otsu to tell her about the duel.  Otsu excuses herself and goes with Jotaro. 

Kojiro Sasaki shows up at the dueling site.  The students tell him that he is a meddler and should leave.  Then it suddenly occurs to the expert swordsman that the students are hiding the professor and plan to ambush Musashi. 

Fooled by her son, Osugi believes that Musashi is eloping with Otsu.  She tells Matahachi to kill Otsu first and then Musashi.  Jotaro and Otsu come by them.  Otsu starts running and Jotaro fights with Osugi's help.  Matahachi catches up with Otsu and tells her that his mother told him to kill her, but he does not want to kill her.  He suggests that they elope.  Otsu objects that Matahachi is married to Oko, Akemi's mother.  Matahachi asks Otsu if she loves Takezo.  She admits that she does love him and Matahachi tells her:  "I must kill you."  Otsu starts running again.  Matahachi pursues her, but runs straight into Kojiro Sasaki.  When Kojiro Sasaki asks Matahachi his name, the fellow tells him his name is Kojiro Sasaki.  That really surprises Kojiro Sasaki and he blows Matahachi's whole lie by telling everyone that he is the real Kojiro Sasaki.  This totally takes the wind out of Matahachi's sails and he just flops himself down on the ground.

In the woods Akemi runs into Takezo.  She warns him of the ambush.  There will be 80 swordsmen waiting to face him.  She asks Takezo to elope with her, but he says that he will not be a coward.  He is going on to the temple.  Otsu arrives and sees the two of them together, a sight she does not welcome.  Takezo continues on his way. 

The call goes out:  "Here he comes!  Musashi comes."  Soon Musashi is fighting 80 swordsmen, not to mention some men with rifles who try to shoot the great swordsman, while archers try to shoot him with their arrows.  It is not an easy job to kill 80 swordsman.  Even though he kills quite a few, Musashi begins to be exhausted.  Finally admitting to himself that at times discretion is the better part of valor, Musashi makes a fighting retreat through the woods.  He manages to get away from the remaining swordsmen.  Kojiro Sasaki and Otsu watch part of the match.  The priest arrives and this gives Otsu the chance to tell him that she is not going to become a nun.  Rather she says:  "I'll run after him, if it's the last thing I do." 

In the woods Musashi runs into the professor who wants to duel.  Musashi knocks the professor down and can easily kill him.  But in his head he hears the voices of those who have criticized him for just being a tough guy without the heart and spirit of a true samurai.  He decides to let the professor live.  Musashi just walks away from the professor. 

Jotaro finds Musashi in the woods.  He yells to tell Otsu that he has found Takezo. 

Otsu washes Takezo's clothes by the river.  Takezo comes down to the river to talk with her.  After a long silence he grabs her and tries to kiss her.  But she pulls away saying:  "You mustn't."  Feeling rejected, he leaves.  A little later Otsu comes to find him, but he has gone for good. She calls out his name, but he does not answer.  Takezo says to himself:  "I have renounced the love of women."  Kojiro Sasaki and Otsu run to the top of a hill and see Takezo walking away.  Kojiro Sasaki says:  "Good luck, Musashi.  Develop yourself.  And I will too."

 

This second movie of the trilogy is also good.  There is a lot more sword fighting and action in this movie compared to the first one.  I think the first one is better because it was more about relationships that killing and death.  But those who like action might enjoy this second part better. 

Patrick L. Cooney, Ph. d.

 

Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island

Kojiro Sasaki wants to win a match.  And above all he wants to defeat his rival in love and swordsmanship to become Japan's number one swordsman.  Akemi is with him, while he talks about killing Takezo (Musashi).  This upsets Akemi and she asks Kojiro Sasaki why he wants to fight him.  She adds that:  "You scare me."  Akemi leaves.  She calls aloud for Takezo and cries. 

Ancient City of Nara.  A Martial Arts Tournament is being held by the Hozoin Temple priests.  Priest Agon has been defeating all comers.  Now he shouts:  "Who's next?"  Musashi is in the audience but he is not interested in fighting the priest.  But the young boy with him, Jotaro, resents the bragging of the priest and shouts out a challenge to him.  The fighting priest grabs the boy and says he must fight.  Musashi intervenes, but now the priest says that Musashi has to fight him.  The fighting begins, but the old priest that once told Takezo that he was just a tough guy with no samurai heart intervenes, telling priest Agano that Musashi is too good of a fighter for him.  He stops the match. 

The old priest talks with Musashi.  He asks him if he has ever fallen in love.  Musashi avoids answering.  The old priest says he knows someone who longs for Musashi.  Although Musashi does not want to know the name, the old priest tells him it is Lord Yagyu.  He is at Edo (the future Tokyo).  The priest suggests that Musashi go to Edo and he does so.  Not long after Musashi and Jotaro leave, Otsu shows up to speak with the old priest.  He tells her that Musashi just left and that he is going to Edo.  The old priest advises Otsu not to chase Musashi, which makes Otsu start crying once again. 

Edo, the Shogun's political and military headquarters.  Many ambitious samurai come to the city to better their positions.  Kojiro Sasaki is one of the many samurai in Edo.  He tells his opponent, Okaya, to take off the covering over his spearhead.  The man doesn't want to do it, but the Shogun tells him to comply with the request.  Kojiro easily wins the match, but he cripples his opponent.  This makes some trouble for Kojiro because nobody will hire one who cripples his vassal.  He admits:  "I overdid it.  I'll stay unemployed."   His one consolation is that the pretty woman named Omitsu seems to like him a great deal.  He asks her to elope with him, but she refuses.  He then tells Omitsu that he is leaving Edo.  But before he does so, he goes to see Okaya.  This improves people's opinions about Kojiro.  Now he can be considered for employment. 

Musashi tries to lose himself in wood carving, but Jotaro knows that he still wants to see Otsu.  And Musashi admits that he does want to see her.  He adds, however:  "But she will refuse.  I did something terrible to her."  On the street the big news is that one samurai killed four members of the Obana School of swordsmanship.  The winner left a public note for all to read.  It was Kojiro Sasaki.  Musashi takes the four dead bodies to the Obana School and talks with Professor Obana.  The professor tells Musashi that the four dead men are not students of his.  Musashi apologizes for disturbing him and is determined to bury the men by himself.  While he and Jotaro bury the men, Kojiro Sasaki arrives to challenge Musashi to a duel.  Musashi tells him that he will gladly fight him but he wants to postpone the match.  So Kojiro postpones it to tomorrow evening. 

The Shogun Lord Hosokawa wants to hire Kojiro Sasaki as his teacher.  But Kojiro declines.  Chief Retainer Sado, however, is recommending Musashi for the job.  But Kojiro is going to fight a duel with Musashi tomorrow, so there may be no need to worry about Musashi as competition. 

At night Musashi and Jotaro are eating dinner.  The guys next door are making way too much noise and Jotaro tells them to quiet down.  The leader, the tough guy Kumagoro, blames Musashi for this rudeness and demands an apology in written form.  Musashi is just as cool as can be and he starts catching flies out of the air with his chop sticks.  The speed of the man scares the noisy neighbors so much that they all run from Musashi. 

At the dueling site, Kojiro Sasaki waits for Musashi to appear.  Instead, Jotaro throws a message to Kojiro.  In it Musashi asks to postpone the duel for an entire year.  He is going on a journey because he wants to train himself further.  When Musashi and Jotaro leave, tough guy Kumagoro (called Kuma), goes with them.  While walking a number of arrows land close to them.  They seek some protection by hiding in the bushes.  Brigands ride up to them.  They are going to steal their horse as well as Musashi's two samurai swords.  Musashi complies readily but then suddenly throws a knife into the chest of one of the brigands and quickly dispatches another.  This scares the other bandits and they quickly leave. 

Musashi and company reach the village of their destination.  The villagers approach him to complain about all the crimes committed against them by the brigands.  They are completely at the mercy of the bandits.  Musashi listens and then starts cutting down trees.  He is building a house in which to live.  He plans to stay in one place for awhile. 

At a club Kojiro Sasaki and four others asks for the girl Hanagiri, who turns out to be Akemi.  Kojiro explains to his buddies that Akemi is a victim of unrequited love for Musashi.  "And look at her now!"  Akemi says that they are laughing at her.  Kojiro tells her that he will tell her where Musashi is.  He is at Hoten Field in Shimosa.  Akemi is determined to go there. 

Otsu is walking through bandit country to get to Musashi.  Two bandits accost her and want to rape her.  Jotaro and Kuma hear her screams and come to the rescue.  The bandits flee.  Otsu explains that Lord Yagyu of Edo told her where to find them.  Musashi freshens up and goes to see Otsu.  She tells him:  "I missed you.  I was to blame.  . . . It was sudden.  I won't leave you again!"   He tells her that now he likes farm work.  He adds:  "I'm beginning to learn the value of life."  He then leaves.  Otsu cries saying:  "He's still angry at me."  Musashi starts his wood carving again.  Jotaro and Kuma agree that they don't understand him or his relationship with Otsu.  Otsu plays her flute hoping Musashi will come to her, but he does not. 

The next morning more villagers leave the village seeking for safety.  The remaining villagers come over to Musashi to ask him to teach them how to fight. 

Akemi is going to walk to Musashi's village from a restaurant.  The man and wife co-owners tell her it is too dangerous; there are too many bandits.  They ask her to wait until some tradesmen arrive and then she can go to the village with them.  As she waits some bandits arrive and start abusing the owner.  The sleaze ball, Toji, is with them.  He recognizes Akemi.  She asks him about her mother.  The huge man next to him, Konei, tells her that he killed her mother because she killed his brother. The bandits decide to make use of Akemi.  She is to go to the village and tell the people that all the bandits have been arrested.  Then at night she is to set fire to the house of Musashi as a signal for the bandits to attack the village.  Toji tells her that if she doesn't do what they say, he will have to kill her. 

An unhappy Otsu asks Musashi why he is evading her.  She says she can't life like this.  She runs down to the river to drown herself, but Musashi saves her.  At this critical moment Akemi arrives on the scene.  She is not happy to see Otsu.  When they are all alone at night, Akemi asks Musashi to elope with her.  He tells her:  "Stop it!"  She tells him:  "I'm sorry.  It's not your fault.  You have Otsu.  I will leave in the morning.  Be happy with her.  I give you up." 

The next day Akemi tells the villagers that all the bandits have been arrested.  The villagers are so happy that they are safe that they decide to have a giant celebration.  Akemi tells Musashi that she will stay for awhile.  She goes to speak with Otsu.  She goes with her into the house.  She gives a hatchet to Otsu and picks up one for herself.  Akemi attacks Otsu.  In the struggle a candle is kicked over and starts a fire.   The bandits see the fire and start their attack.  Otsu and Akemi escape from the fire. 

The big bad bandit Konei tells his partners in crime that he will handle Musashi himself.  He finds Musashi and is very quickly dead.  Jotaro manages to kill a bandit, but Kuma is killed.  Toji is about to kill Otsu when Akemi thrusts a spear into the man's back.  He does, however, manage to swing his sword around and kill Akemi while he falls.  Musashi arrives and holds Akemi while she dies.  She tells him:  "At last you hold me."  Otsu cries. 

The villagers bury their dead.  A letter arrives from Kojiro Sasaki.  He says he wants to have the duel with Musashi April next in Kokura, Lord Hosokawa's country seat.  Musashi leaves for Kokura, leaving Otsu behind.  But she refuses to remain behind and with Jotaro follows him. 

The fight will be within five days.  Kojiro Sasaki is to marry Omitsu.  Musashi writes to say that he will be taking a boat directly to the island on which the duel will take place.  Otsu becomes very sick.  Kojiro Sasaki goes to the island.  Musashi pays a visit to Otsu.  He asks her to take a walk with him (despite her illness) and she says:  "This is the first time you asked me to walk with you."  Having made things right with Otsu he says:  "Now I can fight with a clear conscience."  But Otsu asks him to please not fight.  He tells her:  "A samurai's wife sends off her man with a smile."  The word "wife" changes everything for Otsu.  Now she knows she has a future with Musashi.  Musashi gets in the boat to head to the island.  He brings with him a long wooden pole.  He says he will use this rather than his main sword. 

Musashi gets off the boat and walks to the shore.  Kojiro Sasaki rushes over to him to begin the duel immediately.  It does not take long before the wooden pole is broken in half.  Even so, Musashi is able to hit Kojiro with the tip of the pole (which, if it had been the sword, would have killed Kojiro).  Musashi makes good use of the sun being in Kojiro's eyes.  He makes his final attack and kills Kojiro.  Musashi says that Kojiro was the best swordsman he ever encountered.  Musashi gets back in the boat. On the way back to Otsu, the boatman says "I'm so happy."   He even prayed for Musashi to win. 

 

Good movie.  But it cannot compare to Gone with the Wind.  Rhett Butler was very good with women, while Musashi could not relate to any of the five or so women who were after him.  Rhett had to fight to marry Scarlet, while Musashi could have married at almost any time.  At one point Musashi even swears off women.  Rhett was extremely skeptical of war and military virtues, while Musashi loved his killer sword more than he loved any woman.  Musashi was a kind of professional killer, while Rhett wasn't even looking to kill anyone.  And the history of the American Civil War was a much more monumental event in America's history, than the history covered in this movie was to Japan's larger history.  Japan's history just seems to be just one civil war after another between various war lords.  No wonder the Japanese created a warrior culture that proved to be cruel and inhumane.  Rhett and Scarlet were both passionate people.  Otsu was passionate about Takezo/Musashi, but Musashi acted as though he was incapable of passion for a woman.  Not that much on which to build a great love story. 

Patrick L. Cooney, Ph. d.

 


Historical Background:

 

c. 1584  --  Musashi was born into the samurai family of Hiratas, in either Miyamoto, Okayama or possibly Harima in the province of  Mimasaka.  His family owed allegiance to the Shinmen clan.

He was trained in the sword by Hirata Munisai.

1589  --  Shinmen Sokan ordered Munisai to kill Munisai's student, Honiden Gekinosuke. The Honiden family was obviously upset, Munisai had to move four kilometers away to the village of Kawakami.

c. 1595  --  at age 7, Musashi was raised as a Buddhist by his uncle, Dorinho.  He may have studied at the Yoshioka ryu school. 

c. 1596  -- at age 13, Musashi had his first successful duel. Arima Kihei was traveling to hone his art and he posted a public challenge in Hirafuku-mura. Musashi wrote his name on the challenge and the challenge was accepted. Dorin tried to beg off in Musashi's name, but Kihei insisted that the only way Kihei's honor could be cleared was if Musashi apologized to him at the time the duel was scheduled. At the scheduled time, the monk began apologizing for Musashi.  But suddenly Musashi leaped into the ring with a piece of wood shaped like a sword.  He challenged Kihei, who attacked Musashi with a wakizashi.  Musashi threw Kihei down and then beat him to death.

1599  --  Musashi left his village.  He traveled engaging in duels along the way. 

1600  --  war began between the Toyotomi and Tokugawa. Musashi fought on the side of the Toyotomi.

1600 (July)  --  Musashi participated in the attempt to take Fushimi castle.

1600 (August)  --  Musashi  defended the besieged Gifu castle. 

He also may have taken part in the Battle of Sekigahara. 

The Toyotomi lost the war and Shinmen Sokan fled to Kyushu province.  Musashi may have fled too. 

1604 (or 1605)  --  at age of 20 (or 21), in Kyoto Musashi began a series of duels against the Yoshioka school, one of eight such martial schools.

1604 (March 8)  --  Musashi challenged and defeated Yoshioka Seijuro, master of the Yoshioka school. Seijuro's then dueled against Mursashi but he too lost. This so infuriated the Yoshioka school that a force of archers, riflemen, and swordsmen challenged Musashi to a duel.  Musashi usually arrived late, but this time he came two hours early and hid himself.  When the force arrived , Musashi assaulted the force, killed their 12 year old leader  Matashichiro, and then escaped. The death of Matashichiro destroyed that branch of the Yoshioka school.

Musashi left Kyoto, traveling to Hozoin in Nara where he learned the dueling techniques of the monks there. He settled down at Enkoji Temple in Banshu/Hyogo. 

1605-1612  --  he traveled all over Japan engaging in the warrior pilgrimage (called Musha-Shugyo), during which he honed his skills with duels. (Most of the duels were not fought to the death.)

1606  --   Musashi wrote a scroll of Enmei Ryu teachings ("Writings on the Sword Technique of the Enmei Ryu").  The central idea was to use the twin swords of the samurai as effectively as a pair of sword and jitte.

1607  --  Musashi departed Nara for Edo (later Tokyo) where he defeated Muso Gonnosuke, who later founded an influential staff school, the Shinto Muso Ryu. 

1611  --  Musashi began practicing the Zen Buddish practice of zazen at the Myoshinji Temple.  There he met Nagaoka Sado, a vassal to Lord Hosokawa Tadaoki, who was a powerful lord.

1612 (April 14)  --  Musashi had his most famous duel with Sasaki Kojiro who wielded a nodachi (a type of long two-handed sword).  Musashi killed him with a brokken (a sword longer than the nodachi0. 

1612  --  Musashi briefly established a fencing school.

1614-1615  --  Musashi fought on the side of the Toyotomis in the war between the Toyotomis and Tokugawas.  Ieyasu Tokugawa's army was victorious.  It is not known how, but Musashi came into Ieyasu's good graces.

1615  --  Musashi became a construction supervisor and helped construct Akashi Castle. 

1621  -- he helped lay out the town of Himeji. He also taught martial arts during his stay.

1621  --  Musashi defeated Miyake Gunbei and three others.  He developed a number of disciples for his Enmei Ryu school.

1622  --  Musashi's adoptive son became a vassal to the fief of Himeji.

1623  --  Musashi traveled again, ending up in Edo. He failed in his attempt to become a swordmaster to the Shogun, so he traveled to Yamagata.  Here he adopted a second son. The two traveled to Osaka.

1626  --  his first adoptive son committed seppuku because of the death of his lord. Musashi tried and failed to become a vassal to the Lord of Owari.

1627  --  Musashi traveled again.

1634  --  he settled in Kokura with his second adoptive son.  Later he entered the service of daimyo Ogasawara Tadazane. 

1637  --  he played a major role in the Shimabara Rebellion.  Musashi was injured by a thrown rock while scouting in the front line.

1642  --  Musashi suffered attacks of neuralgia. 

1643  --  he retired to a cave to live as a hermit to write The Book of Five Rings.

1645 (February)  --  he finished his book.

1645 (possibly June 13)  --  Musashi dies in his cave.


 

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