An epic tale that all can relate to if we look within...
The book Musashi, authored by Eiji Yoshikawa, is an absolute epic story which unfolds over several years and multiple locations in Japan. The story centres around six or seven main characters whose lives and fates are entwined as they journey throughout Japan searching for success, forgiveness, revenge, love and enlightenment.
The most striking thing about this book for me is how the struggles, failures, tragedies, self-reflections and growth experienced by the characters transcend time and culture to be relevant to the reader. The Japanese culture, landscape, traditions and social hierarchy was foreign to me and this book provided a rich learning experience about Japanese history and culture. And yet despite these differences, the human nature exhibited by the characters in the story act as a metaphor and lesson to many of life’s current challenges in relationships and existence. I think, as individuals, we often see ourselves as different from other cultures and generations. This book was published in the 1930s and set in the 1600s, and it delivers perhaps an unexpected message that we have more in common with – than we have difference from – other cultures.
This book was gifted to me and sat on my shelf for months before I picked it up one day. The small writing and almost 1000 page length was somewhat daunting. Little did I know that it is actually one of the bestselling books in history with more than 120 million copies sold! In truth I never really got bored and by the time the story ended there was sadness in parting ways with the characters.
The story is infused with the philosophies of Zen Buddhism and the Way of the Samurai, with a focus on Musashi’s journey to become one with the way of the sword. It conveys to the reader the trappings of chasing wealth, success and the pursuit of ego and status. It also successfully illustrates that rigidity is not necessarily discipline and the benefit of humility and acceptance of life. Add to this some epic fight scenes and suspenseful drama and what’s not love about this book?! I certainly enjoyed it!