Time machine: Memories of a marathon Miyamoto Musashi film fest
TOKYO — One of my more memorable early experiences in Tokyo was spending an entire Saturday in 1965 watching a five-part Toei film series, based on the life of Miyamoto Musashi, the famous 16th century swordsman.
I went with a Japanese friend, a young man named Kazuhiko Kusaka, an employee at the Toda Construction company where I taught English. We sat in the back row of a dingy side-street theater in the Ginza, our feet up on the seats in front of us to protect against the rats that occasionally scurried by, riveted to the film on the screen, presented in wide screen Toei Scope and brilliant Toei color. Kusaka was a practitioner of the martial arts; he had a black belt in aikido and was an aficionado of samurai lore.
Musashi Miyamoto, played in the film by the kabuki star Nakamura Kinnosuke, was one of the most accomplished swordsmen of all time. But he was also one who mastered art forms like calligraphy, painting, sculpture, tea ceremony and flower arrangements. Before his death he wrote The Book of Five Rings, a contemplation on the life of a samurai, that has endured to this day — and for a time during the Bubble Era of the 1980’s became required reading in Wall Street boardrooms.