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Musashi

Narrated by: Brian Nishii
Length: 53 hrs and 24 mins
4.7 out of 5 stars (335 ratings)

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Summary

The classic samurai novel about the real exploits of the most famous swordsman.

Miyamoto Musashi was the child of an era when Japan was emerging from decades of civil strife. Lured to the great Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 by the hope of becoming a samurai - without really knowing what it meant - he regains consciousness after the battle to find himself lying defeated, dazed, and wounded among thousands of the dead and dying. On his way home, he commits a rash act, becomes a fugitive, and brings life in his own village to a standstill - until he is captured by a weaponless Zen monk.

The lovely Otsu, seeing in Musashi her ideal of manliness, frees him from his tortuous punishment, but he is recaptured and imprisoned. During three years of solitary confinement, he delves into the classics of Japan and China. When he is set free again, he rejects the position of samurai and for the next several years pursues his goal relentlessly, looking neither to the left nor to the right.

Ever so slowly it dawns on him that following the way of the sword is not simply a matter of finding a target for his brute strength. Continually striving to perfect his technique, which leads him to a unique style of fighting with two swords simultaneously, he travels far and wide, challenging fighters of many disciplines, taking nature to be his ultimate and severest teacher and undergoing the rigorous training of those who follow the way. He is supremely successful in his encounters, but in The Art of War, he perceives the way of peaceful and prosperous governance and disciplines himself to be a real human being.

He becomes a reluctant hero to a host of people whose lives he has touched and by whom he has been touched. Inevitably, he has to pit his skill against the naked blade of his greatest rival.

Musashi is a novel in the best tradition of Japanese storytelling. It is a living story, subtle and imaginative, teeming with memorable characters, many of them historical. Interweaving themes of unrequited love, misguided revenge, filial piety, and absolute dedication to the way of the samurai, it depicts vividly a world Westerners know only vaguely. Full of gusto and humor, it has an epic quality and universal appeal.

©1971 Fumiko Yoshikawa (P)2018 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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Wonderful and engaging story

Having read the book many years ago, I found this much more enjoyable as it moved along at a good pace. Also the pronunciation of the names was much better mine.

7 people found this helpful

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A Dissenting Voice

I had read and watched the Shogun book and TV mini series and enjoyed them very much so thought I'd see if I could find anything similar on Audible. 17th century Japan as depicted in Shogun fascinated me so when I stumbled across Musashi and read the overwhelmingly five star reviews, I just had to get it. It's 50+ hour length wasn't a deterrent either as I enjoyed the aforementioned Shogun book of similar length and the 10 hour mini series. Listening to the foreword, it was apparent that Shogun was somewhat disparaged in some of the "implausible" characters and the sense I got was that Musashi was the "real" Japanese story and Shogun not so. Intrigued, I eagerly dove into Musashi with very high expectations. Additionally, Musashi picked up from where Shogun had left off - the battle at Sekigahara in late 1600. The story started well enough but pacing was a little on the slow side with unnecessary detail being included but, I thought, this has just started so go with it as it will get better. I mean, all those reviewers couldn't be that wrong. I'll be as brief as I can. Musashi is a meandering story that suffers from having several very odd characters and far less "plausible" than the Mariko character so derided in the foreword. The motivations of so many in this book were odd to say the least and unbelievable at times. Rather than a sophisticated, gritty story as I'd hoped for, we instead end up with an overly extended series of unbelievably contrived meetings of people. The first one or two times the book brought two characters together, I could let it go as a required plot device but over the course of this story these chance meetings became just ridiculous. It would be like meeting someone in a bar in Glasgow, then meet them again two years later while travelling on a side road in Leeds then coming across them years later in Cornwall! Completely silly and something the story contrived to do in order to come up with an equally unlikely plot. Perhaps the original Japanese language edition was better in regards to the odd dialogue seen here in places. I guess many things are lost in translation but here are some examples "Tears rose up from his chest.". "It would help if you consented to being killed.". "But if you wake up dead, you'll know I was the real Kojuro.". "he tensed his elbows ..". As alluded to before, the other weird aspect to this book is the often unfathomable motivations of some of the characters. Example, one central character, an old woman, has a death wish on the main protagonist simply because he blames him for her own son bailing on a betrothal? She pursues the key protagonist over the course of this story for such ridiculous reasons. Most of the male characters remind me of mature adults or teens who want to fight for any perceived slight. It literally is so often like the following: Man 1: "Oh, you've insulted me!". Man 2: "Yes, let's fight!". So often the "Art of War" is referred to and "fighting spirit" but no talk of Bushido. The fighting and silly reasons for it are like a drunken night out after a football match. When fights do begin, they are so over the top in some cases, it's like watching those old martial arts movies where people would leap over opponents as if on a trampoline etc. Weapons, too, seemed exaggerated in their potency when wooden swords can split people in two oar a thrown dagger can penetrate thick layers of silk. I can understand how this story could possibly appeal to young teens, or certainly the ones I knew of back in the 80's who soaked up all those terrible martial arts movies but to a more discerning reader, I think that Musashi will fall far short of expectations. One thing I did appreciate in this book, however, was the level of geography. So many places are mentioned but unfortunately, we do not get a sense of distance between them so it is hard to appreciate the extent to which characters journeyed. It is evident that Musashi is a romanticised hero given his hard to believe attributes. He is apparently a master with the sword although I cannot recall him ever having had any formal or informal training. He can withstand bathing naked in ice choked rivers in the depths of winter and climb near vertical rock faces as well as show amazing levels of endurance with little food. I know that heroes are often portrayed somewhat larger than life but it is a little too beyond belief at times in this story. The other difficulty I had as an English language listener was the myriad of Japanese names. This book has a lot of characters in it and it can be hard to keep track of them. There was a section in the latter part of this book where Musashi is reunited with a priest of which I had no memory at all! It also took me a while to recognize former characters reintroduced later in the story too.. I am going to go into spoiler territory below so anyone still wanting to read this book, please stop now. OK, the essence of this story is somewhat like the old wild west movies where we have two men heading on a collision cores. Just like those old gun fighters of the 1800's, Musashi and Kojiro are two swordsmen destined to meet in battle. However, as I was reading this interminable story, I held out hope that the "pay off" would finally be worth the hours of meandering plot and ridiculous coincidences. As I read on and thought about the way these men behaved and the nature of Japanese sword play, I began to suspect that the final battle would be rather disappointing. Spoiler alert! I've had sneezes last longer than the final show down between these two masters of the sword! Really, I'm not exaggerating at all! I ploughed through tens of hours of narrative to get to this? I would've felt some measure of satisfaction had the final battle been the stuff of legends but once the talking was over and the "action" begins, blink and you'll miss it! To me, Shogun was a far more sophisticated and compelling story even if it isn't an accurate representation of 17th century Japan. Suffice it to say, reading Musashi was a big let down and, in my humble opinion, has been vastly overrated - at least by western readers. It might strike some romantic chord with Japanese readers and I can see that elements of this story will appeal to native Japanese but certainly the English translation doesn't come across perhaps as intended."

6 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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epic. hugely enjoyable.

great fun, compulsive listening, like s cross between a dubbed Kung Fu film, historical novel, and high Japanese literature, hits so many spots.

6 people found this helpful

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Epic tale of the Samurai

Epic story that once started has to be finished do not be put off by the 53hrs they will fly by.

5 people found this helpful

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A classic

I will always recommend this classic, over and over again. For those having a samurai spirit, this is for you

10 people found this helpful

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everyone should read this

Although telling a story about a samurai it really is about life itself. Read it.

3 people found this helpful

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My book of the decade

Thanks this is the best book l have had the pleasure to hear. A true delight

3 people found this helpful

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Find a different translation

Really disappointed I wasted a precious credit on this. The translation into English is appalling, full of cliches and lazy writing. I could not stand it and gave up after a few chapters. Shame, as I suspect the original work is well worth attention. I also found the reader's rendition of speech wholly unconvincing.

2 people found this helpful

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The best book of my life.

This book is my bible. I’ve read it 10 years ago and decided to try the audio book version on my second time. The story is amazing as well as the performances. I recommend it to everyone who’s interested in a deeper understanding of life itself. Yes. It’s a philosophy book.

4 people found this helpful

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Americanised Japan

Very Americanised, the poor translation and reading took me out of the story. far too many modern terms and words. Disappointed as was looking forward to listening.

1 person found this helpful

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Profile Image for Loud Lemur from Latveria
  • Loud Lemur from Latveria
  • 03-11-18

My all-time favorite book

surprised I didn't write a review before now. just finished my third reading and second listen to this book. It's simply a masterpiece. I really hope kodansha does an audiobook for Yoshikawa's Taiko as well someday

63 people found this helpful

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  • The Walking Dude
  • 11-08-19

Good Historical Novel

Musashi is a good historical novel. It recounts in great detail the life of Miyamoto Musashi the famous samurai. The story often feels as if it were cowritten by Charles Dickens and Akira Kurosawa. That’s a good thing. There’s a huge cast of interesting characters that cross paths in surprising was over many years. The path of Musashi from a young, irresponsible hothead into the great swordsman of legend is a wonderful journey to follow. Yet in my opinion it’s about 10 hours too long. At a certain point it seemed that storylines were being recycled and tedious, irrelevant events were being given too much time. As the story ended villainous characters suddenly had magical, positive changes of heart that seemed to have more to do with a diminishing page count than an actual moral enlightenment. And much of the cast of characters don’t have a satisfying resolution to their arcs. You just don’t really know what happened to them. After fifty some hours of prose I expect to know what their fates are in some way. I also didn’t go for the preface that pretty much denigrates a better book, Shogun, in an effort to cast this book in a positive light. You shouldn’t knock down a peer to make yourself look better. This book is good, but it’s got problems. I would actually recommend watching the Samurai Trilogy that stars the great Toshiro Mifune that was adapted from this novel instead of reading or listening to the book as it’s a better constructed piece as a whole.

41 people found this helpful

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  • Garrett J. A. Flowers
  • 10-11-18

Great story, great narrator

Such a well-written story, with so many different storylines developed and then woven together. This story provides a fascinating view into Japanese and samurai culture. 53 hours long and I was sad that it ended! The narrator is fantastic, with real feeling, seemingly authentic pronunciation of Japanese names and unique voices for nearly every character.

19 people found this helpful

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  • Gerardo Ruiz Jr
  • 15-09-18

A great book with a great narrator

This is one of my favorite books and was made better with the narrators performance.

19 people found this helpful

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  • William G. Voit
  • 16-09-19

One of the best books I have listened to

This have to be one of the best books I have listened to. Great story and the narration. Brings the story to life for me. The life of the Japanese Samurai has always intrigued me and this takes you into the day to day life and times of a Samurai plus gives you a glimpse into that time in history. Well worth the time and money for this one. Thanks so much for the work to bring it to me. Greatly appreciated.

7 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Brannon Burroughs
  • 27-01-20

Must listen ... especially if you liked Shogun.

The narrator is great and is great world in which to lose yourself for 50 hours.

6 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Christopher
  • 17-07-20

I don’t know if it’s the narrator or 7 books in one

It’s a long adventure for a samurai with basically 6 characters. Weird to have an entire world and then in every city it just so happens the same 6 characters are there. I think the fact that there is no spice of life in 50 hours the narrator starts to get old since they don’t have very many voices to do.

4 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Luie Guopo
  • 16-08-19

Amazing book!!!

I was so engaged throughout and the narrator did an incredible job capturing the vibe of each scene. As far as the author, words could not do this book any justice. One of the best books I’ve ever read! I’m a martial artist (*jiu Jitsu) so this book spoke to my soul! Great book!

4 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • J. Richards
  • 09-04-19

wow

Best experience so far on audible in about a year and 30+ books. Maybe the best story of all time. The voices are done perfectly.

4 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 15-09-18

BIG Must

this book is definitely a big must for anybody that is a fan of Japanese culture and history

4 people found this helpful