Miyamoto Musashi was born in Harima Province, Japan in 1584. The son of a martial artist of lesser nobility, he was orphaned by the age of eight. Raised by his uncle, Musashi began his study of the sword at a very early age.
He had an unusually large build, and a childhood case of severe eczema left his face severely scared. Also, legend has it that he rarely bathed or changed his clothes as he worried about being caught unaware and unarmed. His appearance no doubt intimidated his enemies just as much as his sword work!
THE FIRST DUEL
AT THE AGE OF 13, a samurai named Arima Kihei posted a public challenge. Musashi signed his name on it. When informed that his duel had been accepted by Kihei, Musashi's uncle, Dorin, was shocked. His uncle tried to beg off the duel based on his nephew's age. Kihei insisted that the only way his honor could be cleared was if Musashi apologized to him at the duel.
When the time came, Dorin began apologizing for Musashi. But the boy charged Kihei with a staff, shouting a challenge. Kihei attacked with his short sword, but Musashi threw him to the floor. As he tried rise, Musashi struck him between the eyes, then beat him to death. Arima was said to have been arrogant, overly eager to fight—and not a very talented swordsman.
Sword for hire
MUSASHI WANDERED the country as a sword-for-hire, and challenging other fighters. Once such duel was with Yoshioka Seijuro, head of the famous Yoshioka School of Swordsmanship. But Musashi showed up three hours late, dirty and disheveled, without apology. The normally cool-headed Yoshioka was furious and rushed Musashi, who used his opponent’s haste against him and won.
Yoshioka’s brother challenged Musashi, who showed up late again—and again emerged victorious. Finally, the entire school challenged him. This time, Musashi showed up early and hid. When the mob arrived, he lept out of the bush and killed most of them—including the school’s young heir—before fleeing.
Sword for hire
MUSASHI OWED HIS success in battle not just to his skill with a sword, but to his ability to fool with his opponent’s mind. In his most famous duel, he called out Sasaki Kojiro, who was equally renown for his sword work. The two met at sunrise on a remote island. Once more, Musashi arrived late, and this time didn’t even bother to bring a sword. Instead, he had carved a sword out of one of the boat’s oars.
Kojiro was deeply offended. It was as if Musashi didn’t think the nobleman was worth getting his sword dirty! When Kojiro attacked, Musashi evaded, landing the first blow, cracking Kojiro’s skull, and killing him instantly. This very duel is depicted in the beautifully etched glass inside our restaurant.
BOOK OF FIVE RINGS
TOWARD THE END of his life, after nearly 60 undefeated duels, Musashi retired in seclusion. There, he wrote the Book of Five Rings, one of the greatest texts on the art of mastery over conflict. Written not just for martial artists but for anyone willing to apply its principles to their life.
The five “books” refer to the idea that there are different elements of battle, just as there are physical elements: earth, water, fire, wind and void. It is from this text that we drew our inspiration. The Japanese characters, or kanji, for these five elements adorn the wall, and serve as a reminder of the master’s timeless wisdom.