Following in the footsteps of Miyamoto Musashi
In honor of Miyamoto Musashi and his inspirational Go Rin No Sho (The Book of 5 Rings) the following information is for those wishing to visit Japan and various significant Miyamoto Musashi sites of interest. The following is his post with a little added extra information by me.
One of the best general resources is the Japan National Tourist Organization website at http://www.jnto.go.jp/ That being said, some of the places which martial artists may want to visit are very much off the beaten track and require a lot of searching online, questioning friends and strangers (a visit to any local dojo for help is highly recommended) and help from a local tourist office or bus station. Japan has very low crime, and its people are usually very helpful, so you will eventually get to where you need to be. Please be very respectful to everyone you deal with. For specific directions to the Reigando Cave I suggest getting to the Kumamoto City bus terminal / station and asking (you can write in English if you don’t speak Japanese and can’t find an English-speaking person). This site is also helpful: http://www.manyou-kumamoto.jp/contents.cfm?id=292
The Reigando Cave (霊巌洞) is basically a small cave in the mountains close to Kumamoto city. It is on the grounds of the very old Unganzenji temple (雲巌禅寺), and it was here, in this cave, where Miyamoto Musashi was said to have written his treatise the Go Rin no Sho (五輪書) in the early 1640′s. Here is a link to a relevant blog http://kenshi247.net/blog/2011/06/20/kendo-places-11-musashi-no-sato/ and here is a youtube link so you can have a look at the cave. Although this gives a good idea visually of how the cave looks. I really feel that you have to visit these places to feel the connection and the sense of peace. Its all about being truely there. That is after all why we enjoy traveling and why it can be a catalyst for awakening.
These links are for Ganryu-jima. – “Ganryūjima (巌流島, (formally Funajima 船島) is an island in Japan located between Honshū and Kyūshū, and accessible via ferry from Shimonoseki Harbor (下関港). It is famous for the duel between Miyamoto Musashi and Sasaki Kojirō. The small island was named for its boat-like appearance, and later became to be called the Ganryū kenjutsu school Kojirō had founded” (wikipedia)
During Golden Week (May 3-5) a small festival is held in honor of the epic duel fought between the legendary swordsmen Miyamoto Musashi (author of the Book of Five Rings) and Sasaki Kojiro known as the Demon of the West. They met in 1612 on the island which is now known as Ganryujima and when the duel was over Kojiro lay dead and Musashi was victorious. The actual details of the duel are debatable but the legends of it are very persistent. It’s said that Musashi purposely arrived late, unwashed, and carrying a wooden sword he had carved out of an oar on the way over – all of this to unnerve his opponent. Kojiro is said to have struck first but failed to cut Musashi down. Musashi smacked Kojiro on the head killing him or in the some versions finishing him off with a blow to the ribs.
And if you do pass through Shimonoseiki to get to Ganryu-jima, I recommend that the more adventurous of you try the “fuku” or Japanses blowfish. It’s the famous fish which can kill if not prepared properly, and rumour has it that chefs have to be specially licensed to prepare it, and that they have to try a piece every time they make fuku.