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Musashi

Narrated by: Brian Nishii
Length: 53 hrs and 24 mins
Categories: Fiction, Historical
5 out of 5 stars (78 ratings)

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Publisher's 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.

What members say

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Magnificent

Magnificently narrated! The character voices made the story incredibly enjoyable and helped me, as the reader, to easily identify who was speaking. The effort of the narator along with the magnificence and beauty of this story has forced me to give this a 5 star review. 53hours of pure enjoyment, I strongly recommend

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Well written, well translated, well performed

A fascinating story of swordsman Miyamoto Musashi set just after the Battle of Sekigahara in Japan in the early 17th century. Eiji Yoshikawa wrote the story in the 1930s, but is still able to describe the settings, culture and traditions at the time. It is a long book at over 900 pages - or 53 hours for the audiobook. The story can be divided in a number of ways - there are seven books officially - personally I view Takezo's (Musashi) development in two parts with the defining midway point being his battle against the Yoshioka school. The second half of the book as it moves towards Musashi's epic dual against Kojiro does slow down somewhat and goes on slight tangents. The "romance" between Musashi and Otsu also becomes a little annoying and almost soap opera-like after a while. Despite these it's well worth pushing through to the end.

The book beautifully translated by Charles S. Terry and there are very few signs that the prose was originally written in Japanese - a difficult task considering the difficulty of the language and the numerous historical, social and cultural peculiarities embedded in the story. Similarly, Brian Nishii does a masterful performance bringing the characters to life as well as ensuring that the Japanese names and words are properly pronounce throughout.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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my favorite audio book so far

this is worthy of being called a historical epic. the book is incredibly engaging and well narrated - and like any great book it left me with deep sorrow knowing it was over.

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The path of discipline

The story of Musashi and his path is keenly relatable to me. I feel like my own childhood and latter changes have put me on the same path. for this reason it was a real "page turner"
On top of that, the narration is great. I look forward to listening through this book again.

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Epic

I’ve had this book on my shelf for a couple of years now and had been making slow progress through it. I was super stoked when I realised that there was finally any audio version available!

Such a good story and good performance by the narrator.

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epic, thrilling and zen like

this book can transform your life. I lived a samurai's life while listening to the outstanding story and performance

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excellent all round

was daunted by the length but glad I jumped in! a fantastic story and enthusiastic narrator

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  • A Wade
  • Victoria, Australia
  • 19-02-2019

Musashi kind of a horrible person

A great classic tale which gives great insight into “everyday” Japanese life, as opposed to over the top and stereotypical books like Shogun.

Musashi and other characters growth and development gives great lessons for your own life, encompassing many personalities you will encounter day to day and giving a perspective on dealing with these in perhaps a new way.

But the story itself, Musashi is kind of a horrible person. His complete devotion to the way, of swordsmanship and developing himself leave everyone around him hurt. He abandons those who love and care for him many times, without explanation or any closure.

Dragged out at times, hard to keep track of names and places but this is more a language and listening as opposed to reading issue.

The narrator performed very well and muchly enjoyed were the screams and yells brought to life.

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So hard to follow

All the names and places are in japanese and many sound so similar, ya almost need a reference list of characters and places or the voice actor could have done a worse job of pronouncing them so they stand out more to an english speakers ear,

Otherwise a good book

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  • Loud Lemur from Latveria
  • 03-11-2018

So happy Audible now carries this title!

Musashi is by far my favourite piece of historical fiction ever written. The life of Miyamoto Musashi is so fascinating, and Eiji Yoshikawa found a way to perfectly dramatize it.

Since I became an Audible subscriber, I've checked for this title at least once a month. I've been meaning to re-read it, but life and time constraints have made it difficult to pick up the print version again. So stoked that this is finally here.

To readers who, for some reason or another, reading this review and want some context as to what the book is about - Miyamoto Musashi was a famous swordsman at the beginning of the Edo period in Japan. He was known for using peculiar methods to win his duels - like fighting men, who were themselves armed with swords, with wooden swords fashioned from boat oars. As a middle-aged man, Musashi wrote "Go Rin No Sho" (Book of Five Rings) encapsulating his philosophy of the martial arts and his unique approach to sword tactics. His life has been dramatized in a plethora of varieties over the years - from TV dramas, to stage plays, to anime and manga - but Eiji Yoshikawa's dramatization of his life is the parent of everything that proceeded it.

If you're interested in a fast-paced story set in 17th century Japan - where duels with razor sharp swords are commonplace, and where warriors seek deeper meaning to their lives in esoteric philosophies of the era, this book is a great read.

17 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 15-09-2018

BIG Must

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

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Gerardo Ruiz Jr
  • 15-09-2018

A great book with a great narrator

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

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Garrett J. A. Flowers
  • 10-11-2018

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.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • calvin13
  • 11-11-2018

Better than the Count of Monte Cristo...

I loved this book. It replaced my favorite book, The Count of Monte Cristo, as my favorite piece of fiction. It starts off in a similar way to the Count, but it definitely has a much more wholesome and satisfying end to it. #epic #advetnure #wholesome #samurai #war

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Luie Guopo
  • 16-08-2019

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!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • The Walking Dude
  • 11-08-2019

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Joakim Johansson
  • 16-04-2019

54 hours to short!

I really enjoyed this book to its fullest.
From the location that I personally know to the amazing performance that Brian Nishii.

I can recommend reading the Book of five rings by Miyamoto Musashi before this one.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Ian Silver
  • 25-03-2019

An excellent narration of a true classic.

The narrator did a terrific job. I was engaged through the whole book. So glad they made this audiobook edition.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Jtharp90
  • 19-10-2018

An absolutely perfect story

I cannot say enough about this book, It's absolutely perfect. The audio version is excellent and I highly recommend it. The worst part of the book is when its over. It could have 4 times as long and it wouldn't have been long enough.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 16-01-2019

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.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • daniel
  • 15-01-2019

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.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • SingAlex82
  • 13-09-2018

A classic

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

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • GDS
  • 26-03-2019

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.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Mikhael
  • 14-05-2019

everyone should read this

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

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • PETER O DRAKE
  • 11-05-2019

My book of the decade

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

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Iuri Martinez
  • 22-03-2019

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.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • S. Morris
  • 16-10-2019

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."

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  • Mr. M. G. Helliwell
  • 09-10-2019

Good book, poor narration

So the book itself is a good listen. Its easily accessible despite the foreign (to me) culture. However the narrator struggles with the voices. They all sound very similar and intonation he gives the speech doesn't match the way its described in the text, it almost sounds like a comedy at some points.

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  • David S Massie
  • 13-09-2019

I was engrossed.

A fantastic story. Exceptionally well read. I enjoyed it so much, I'll now purchase the hard copy.