Miyamoto Musashi, the Protagonist
Growing up in 17th century Sengeku era Japan, Shinmen Takezo is shunned by the local villagers as a devil child due to his wild and violent nature. Running away from home with a fellow boy at age 17, Takezo joins the Toyotomi army to fight the Tokugawa clan at the battle of Sekigahara. However, the Tokugawa win a crushing victory, leading to nearly three hundred years of Shogunate rule. Takezo and his friend manage to survive the battle, and afterwards swear to do great things with their lives. But after their paths separate, Takezo becomes a wanted criminal, and must change his name and his nature in order to escape an ignoble death. Based on the book “Musashi” by Eiji Yoshikawa, Vagabond is a fictional retelling of the life of Miyamoto Mushashi, often referred to as the “Sword Saint” – perhaps the most famous and successful of Japan’s sword fighters.
(pertaining to and accounts as depicted in the manga; some may be dramatized interpretations of their lives so do not consider them as official historical biographies unless otherwise indicated)
- Miyamoto Musashi: The main character.
- Sasaki Kojiro: The legendary archrival of Miyamoto Musashi. Kojiro is believed to have studied the Chūjo-ryū style of swordsmanship under the instruction of either Toda Seigen or Kanemaki Jisai. Kojirō was renowned for his Tsubame-Gaeshi, or “Swallow Cut” technique, inspired by the movement of a swallow in flight. In an interesting difference from Yoshikawa’s Musashi, Kojirō is deaf and mute, though still literate. His personality is very playful, almost child-like. Ittousai has also commented the possibility that Kojirou’s eyes have become better developed to compensate for his lack of hearing.
- Takuan Soho: (1573-1645). A Zen Buddhist monk, specifically, representative of the Rinzai sect. In 1610, he was appointed as abbot of the main temple, Daitokuji. Takuan is known for his brute honesty and meticulously perceptive personality, which was sought after by monks, swordsmen, and politicians alike (such as Tokugawa Iemitsu and Go-Mizunoo). Takuan’s shared correspondence with Yagyu Munenori was captured in a treatise called “The Unfettered Mind.” Takuan helps capture Takezo and later renames him as Miyamoto Musashi, setting him free to travel and evolve as a person.
- Hon’iden Matahachi: Hedonist and childhood friend of Musashi. Assumes Sasaki Kojiro’s identity after a dying Tenki entrusts Kojiro’s swordsmanship certificate to him. Upon coming into contact with the real Kojiro, begins to identify himself as Sasaki Koujiro, and poses as an interpreter to deaf Kojiro. He becomes estranged from Musashi after a tense reunion, Matahachi displaying an intense jealousy to Musashi.
- Tsujikaze Tenma: A brigand and head of a gang of free-booters that periodically visits Okō and takes whatever worthwhile she has acquired. He killed Akemi’s father (Okō’s husband), his own mother, and is later killed by Takezō after the Battle of Sekigahara.
- Tsujikaze Kohei : Born in 1580 in the Fuwa village and younger brother of Tsujikaze Tenma. His mom tried to kill him by pushing him off a waterfall the same way she did to Tsujikaze Tenma, however, Tenma kills her and takes Kōhei under his wing. Though Tenma showed him much kindness, Kōhei hardly displayed any affection. When the Tsujikaze Gang was formed and engaged in crimes ranging from robbery, rape, and extortion, Kōhei became its member at 12 and was considered most savage by others. At 12 Kōhei attempted to rape the wife of a villager he had slain, but Tenma, who lusted after his younger brother slew the woman out of jealousy and crushed Kōhei’s testicles, rendering him (Kōhei) impotent. Kōhei failed at killing Tenma and was imprisoned as punishment, during which time he came to adopt a nihilistic outlook on life. The Tsujikaze Gang failed to make a name for themselves and honor their employer, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, in attempting to capture Tokugawa Ieyasu. At the age of 20 in the year 1600, serving 7 years of imprisonment, Kōhei was released by surviving Sekigahara soldiers and escaped to hunt his brother since. Originally desired to kill Tenma himself before Takezō got to him, Kōhei confronts Takezō only to have the battle postponed by Takezō’s captors; cuts the rope by which Takezō is suspended. Kōhei as a bandit came to be referred to as the ‘God of Death’ and killed Shishido Beiken, master of the kusarigama though revealed to be little more than the leader of a small band of thieves. Pretending to be Baiken, Kōhei lived with a little girl, Rindo, who also wielded the kusarigama and was actually his teacher in using it. He is challenged by Musashi and loses, yet his life is spared, though he loses some fingers on his left hand. While recuperating he recalls that Sasaki Kojiro smashed his pride by being further “along the path of death” than him. It has recently been revealed that Kojiro was the one who gave Kouhei his vicious facial scar.
- Ukita Hideie : (1573-1655) Daimyo of Bizen and Mimasaka. One of the leading generals that fought for the Toyotomi Clan at the Battle of Sekigahara.
- Otsu: Childhood friend of Takezō and Matahachi. Otsū was raised by Matahachi’s family and arranged to marry Matahachi. Plans go awry when Matahachi runs off after the Battle of Sekigahara with Okō to Kyoto. Angry at Matahachi, Otsū refuses Granny Hon’iden’s offer to join the Hon’iden family and seeks life and love elsewhere. Currently she is traveling with Takezo’s “apprentice” Joutarou in order to find him.
- Jotaro: He appears as Musashi’s first apprentice.
- Kitabatake Tomonori : (1528-1576). Ruler of Ise, which is located in Mie Prefecture. Tomonori is also said to have been a master of the Kashima Shinto-ryu.
- Tsukahara Bokuden : (1489-1571). Founder of the Kashima Shinto-ryū style of sword fighting. Bokuden was from the city of Kasima in modern-day Ibaraki Prefecture and is famous for his Musashugyo or sword-fighting warrior pilgrimages, which took him on travels throughout Japan.
- Ito Ittosai : (1560 – 1653?). Founder of the Itto-ryu style of swordsmanship, one of the largest schools of sword fighting. Before establishing his own style, Ittōsai is said to have studied a variant of the Chujo-ryū style of sword fighting under Kanemaki Jisai’s instruction. In Vagabond, Ito was one of Sasaki’s Koujirou’s teachers.
- Muso Goonosuke Katsukichi : (dates unknown). Founder of the Sinto Muso-ryu school of martial arts which mainly utilized the wooden staff. Gonnosuke is said to have been one of the many to lose to Musashi in a duel. According to some accounts he defeated Musashi in a rematch. In the manga, Gonnosuke actually meets up with Kojirou, even going so far as to call Kojirou his first friend.
- Honami Koetsu : Famed artist and calligrapher who co-founded an influential arts movement called the Rinpa School. Koetsu was involved in numerous fields including tea ceremony, pottery, and calligraphy. In addition, Koetsu succeeded the line of his family’s ancestral business of sword polishing and appraisals.
Preference : http://.bunka.go.jp/english/festival/2000/manga