Miyamoto Musashi - Book of five rings Free PDF book

Miyamoto Musashi - Book of five rings Free PDF book

Miyamoto Musashi - Book of five rings Free PDF book

Miyamoto Musashi was born in 1584, in Japan struggling to recover from more than four centuries of internal strife. The traditional rule of the emperors had been overthrown in the twelfth century, and although each successive emperor remained the figurehead of Japan, his powers were very much reduced. Since that time, Japan had seen an almost continuous civil war between the provincial lords, warrior monks, and brigands, all fighting each other for land and power. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the lords, called daimyo, built huge stone castles to protect themselves and their lands and castle towns outside the walls began to grow up. These wars naturally restricted the growth of trade and impoverished the whole country.

In 1573, however, one man, Oda Nobunaga, came to the fore in Japan. He became Shogun or military dictator, and for nine years succeeded in gaining control of almost the whole of the country. When Nobunaga was assassinated in 1582, a commoner took over the government. Toyotomi Hideyoshi continued the work of unifying Japan which Nobunaga had begun, ruthlessly putting down any traces of insurrection. He revived the old gulf between the warriors of Japan— the samurai— and the commoners by introducing restrictions on the wearing of swords.

"Hideyoshi's sword-hunt", as it was known, meant that only samurai were allowed to wear two swords; the short one which everyone could wear and the long one which distinguished the samurai from the rest of the population. Although Hideyoshi did much to settle Japan and increase trade with the outside world, by the time of his death in 1598 internal disturbances still had not been completely eliminated. The real isolation and unification of Japan began with the inauguration of the great Togugawa rule. In 1603 Tokugawa leyasu, a former associate of both Hideyoshi and Nobunaga, formally became Shogun of Japan, after defeating Hideyoshi's son Hideyori at the battle of Seki ga Hara. leyasu established his government at Edo, present-day Tokyo, where he had a huge castle. His was a stable, peaceful government beginning a period of Japanese history which was to last until the Imperial Restoration of 1868, for although leyasu himself died in 1616 members of his family succeeded each other and the title Shogun became virtually a hereditary one for the Tokugawas. leyasu was determined to ensure his and his family's dictatorship. To this end, he paid lip-service to the emperor in Kyoto, who remained the titular head of Japan, while curtailing his duties and involvement in the government.

The real threat to leyasu's position could only come from the lords, and he effectively decreased their opportunities for revolt by devising schemes whereby all lords had to live in Edo for alternate years and by placing great restrictions on traveling. He allotted land in exchange for oaths of allegiance and gave the provincial castles around Edo to members of his own family. He also employed a network of secret police and assassins. The Tokugawa period marks a great change in the social history of Japan. The Bureaucracy of the Tokugawas was all-pervading. Not only were education, law, government, and class controlled, but even the costume and behavior of each class. The traditional class consciousness of Japan hardened into a rigid class structure. There were basically four classes of people: samurai, farmers, artisans, and merchants. The samurai were the highest — in esteem if not in wealth — and included the lords, senior government officials, warriors, and minor officials and foot soldiers. Next in the hierarchy came the farmers, not because they were well thought of but because they provided the essential rice crops. Their lot was a rather unhappy one, as they were forced to give most of their crops to the lords and were not allowed to leave their farms. Then came the artisans and craftsmen, and last of all the merchants, who, though looked down upon, eventually rose to prominence because of the vast wealth they accumulated. Few people were outside this rigid hierarchy.

Musashi belonged to the samurai class. We find the origins of the samurai class in the Kondei ("Stalwart Youth") system established in 792 AD, whereby the Japanese army — which had until then consisted mainly of spear-wielding foot soldiers — was revived by stiffening the ranks with permanent training officers recruited from among the young sons of the high families. These officers were mounted, wore armor, and used the bow and sword. In 782 the emperor Kammu started building Kyoto, and in Kyoto he built a training hall which exists to this day called the Butokuden, meaning "Hall of the virtues of war". Within a few years of this revival the fierce Ainu, the aboriginal inhabitants of Japan who had until then confounded the army's attempt to move them from their wild lodgings, were driven far off to the northern island, Hokkaido.

Miyamoto Musashi is one of the greatest swordsmen of all time, and widely considered to be the greatest, and without an equal. Musashi fought 60 duels and never lost a single one, even taking on legendary swordsmen like Sasaki Kojiro

Author: Miyamoto Musashi 

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