Birthplace of a Saint


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Deep in the countryside high in the northeastern regions of Okayama Prefecture, Japan, lies the home of Miyamoto Musashi’s ancestors and the reputed birthplace of the world’s renowned Sword-Saint.

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Miyamoto Musashi no Sato 宮本武蔵の里 is encircled by majestic mountains and lush crop fields that on this autumn day are scattered with ripened persimmon trees burdened with fruit.

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Miyamoto Musashi train station みやもとむさし駅 from which you can reach Musashi’s childhood playgrounds on foot is a one-track station at which a one-carriage train runs through and stops by every hour during daytime.

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I am the only one of two passengers riding the train today and the only one getting off at Miyamoto Musashi train station this autumn afternoon.

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The quietness of the land is captivating and the stillness of the village soothing.

IMG_4949The station building is a tiny wooden shelter resting high in the blue sky.

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At the foot of the station building is a statue of Miyamoto Musasahi as a little boy raising a stick with his right hand to mirror the sword that he would later come to wield and exert profound influence on the philosophy and practice of this art.

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IMG_4551From here it is 700 meters to Miyamoto Musashi’s birthplace.

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Silent steps, one foot in front of the other walking on sacred land where Musashi and his ancestors once lived.

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IMG_4579Central to Miyamoto Musashi no Sato is a small museum dedicated to Musashi set within lovely garden grounds and a community gathering place.

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Inside the grounds of the Miyamoto Musashi village museum.

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Statue of Musashi wielding two swords in the garden grounds sheltered by the evergreen pines.

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IMG_4625Chronicle of Miyamoto Musashi’s life etched in stone.

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The garden of the village museum is beautiful in the radiance of the autumn sun, but to view the original paintings, artworks and sword guards created by Miyamoto Musashi, you must go to Shimada Art Museum and the Kumamoto Prefectural Art Museum, located in Kumamoto city in the prefecture of Kumamoto.

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Miniature models depicting Musashi’s life displayed in the museum.

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Straw sandals and cloth footwear of ancient Japan, during Musashi’s time.

IMG_4662Miyamoto-Kawa, Miyamoto River, that runs through the village.

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After crossing the bridge that arches over the river, you will see the monument marking the place of Miyamoto Musashi’s birth.

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Deeper into Miyamoto Musashi no Sato 宮本武蔵の里, higher in the hills encircled by forests of silent pines and winding roads lies the shrine dedicated to Musashi, Musashi Jinja 武蔵神社.

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Guardians of Musashi Shrine.

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IMG_4707The view from inside the shrine this afternoon.

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Musashi Jinja is positioned on a hill fortified by groves of strong, lush bamboo.

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The air up here is crisper, colder, sharper.  It is deeply quiet within and without.

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Dokkodo, Musashi’s twenty-one precepts for living, is carved in stone and sits by the side of the shrine, weathered by the rays of the sun and tempered by the light of the moon.

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The original copy of the Dokkodo in Musashi’s hand calligraphy is preserved at the Kumamoto Prefectural Art Museum as part of the Hosokawa Collection.

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Nearby on the shrine grounds lie the tombstones of Musashi’s father and mother.

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IMG_4776 Musashi died in Kumamoto in 1645, seven days after he finished writing the Dokkodo.

IMG_4755Although there are several tombstones dedicated to Miyamoto Musashi at a number of locations throughout Japan, the actual remains of Musashi lie entombed in full armour at Musashizuka-koen in Kumamoto, as Musashi had requested upon his death.

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Musashi is renowned as a warrior and founder of the school of traditional Japanese swordsmanship Hyoho Niten Ichi-ryū 二天一流.

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At the same time, Musashi is also recognised as a profound philosopher, a master of ink painting and an expert calligrapher who accomplished artistic works in the media of wood and iron.  Many of his original artistic works are still currently being preserved in Japan.

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Musashi designed and forged sword guards that have become emblematic of his artistic abilities and craftsmanship.

IMG_4869The designs of two sword guards by Musashi have been adopted by Miyamoto Musashi no Sato as the village’s symbol.

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These symbols appear on lamps and lamp posts, on the village bridge, in print, on windows, amongst other places throughout the village.

IMG_4913Most elaborate of all, however, is the design of the grand dojo located in Miyamoto Musashi no Sato.

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The roof of the dojo is shaped like the sword guard with the building circular in structure to reflect the curvature of Musashi’s designs.

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Miniature model of the dojo in wood.

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Miyamoto Musashi’s fame continues to grow in popular culture today.

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The train which had pulled in to Miyamoto Musashi no Sato depicts Musashi in manga form on its carriage.

 

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IMG_4932The sun has a cast a long shadow upon the land, as has Miyamoto Musashi’s influence upon history and human thought.

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