From the same brilliant mind that produced Slam Dunk, Vagabond is a manga written and drawn by Takehiko Inoue from Kagoshima prefecture. The story is based on a real and very legendary figure in the art of the sword; Miyamoto Musashi. This is a list of places that the ronin journeyed to in his quest to become the one who is ‘Invincible Under the Heaven’. Though most of these places are now modernized and look completely different from their feudal form, there are still some worthy landmarks as well as landscapes that could make you see what the lone wolf saw back in the 16th and 17th centuries.
You may not find big shopping malls or other attractions you would usually include in your ‘To-Go’ list, but there is some pretty amazing stuff to do and see here. The prefecture of Okayama is famous for its symphony orchestra, its art and museums, as well as Kibidango; sweets exclusive to this area. The place that you should visit, however, is the city of Mimasaka, which housed the quaint and serene Miyamoto village. Here you can visit the site where the legendary swordsman was born, as well as the site where his friend Hon’iden Matahachi used to live. Miyamoto’s sister’s family and their descendants still live in the village, though you shouldn’t expect to meet them. You can complete the trip here with a visit to a museum dedicated to the master of the two-sword style.
The thousand-year capital is probably one of the most popular tourist spot in Japan. This city was once the Imperial Capital of the country, and today the many remnants of history are still standing strong. There is a long list of shrines full of historical values that must be visited. They are not, however, the main attraction for you fans of Musashi. It is in this city that he clashed with the whole of the Yoshioka clan, which had its roots here. The iconic scene of the slaying of 70 men is still present to this day. Just stepping on the field of Ichijoji could give you goosebumps, as your mind recreates the scene through which Miyamoto Musashi rose as the ‘invincible under the heaven’.
One of Miyamoto’s most iconic stops in his journey is the southern region of Japan that is Kitakyushu, in Fukuoka prefecture. To be specific, Miyamoto Musashi served as a retainer at Kokura Castle, which was under the governance of the Hosokawa fiefdom. This place can be a real valuable trip if you choose to make it. Kokura Castle is one of the buildings that have been maintained in their prime form, which date back to the 1600s. The Hosokawa family is also one of the surviving samurai clans in this modern age. In fact, one of Japan’s previous prime ministers was a Hosokawa.
Miyamoto’s journey may have slowed down as his journey to Kokura can be seen as his retirement. This does not mean that his life ended without a bang. It was here that he engaged the formidable genius Sasaki Kojiro. Located in Yamaguchi prefecture, Ganryu Island is now uninhabited, though it can still be reached by ferry. As one of the most important duels in the Musashi’s life, there are various versions and accounts of how it ended. Regardless of your favorite, recounting Miyamoto’s life would not be perfect without including this epic stop.
This trip would be rejuvenating for both my mind and body. Laid out on a map, however, this journey can be quite costly. People who have made this trip before would definitely recommend starting from the northernmost part, starting from Kyoto, then to Okayama, Yamaguchi and finishing in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka. Since the cross-country journey would also bring you to other great places, it would be wise to plan your accommodation in the rural areas so you won’t miss out on great side trips.