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Musui's Story: The Autobiography of a Tokugawa Samurai
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Manufacturer: University of Arizona Press
Average Customer Rating: Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5

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Binding: Paperback
Dewey Decimal Number: 952.0250924
EAN: 9780816512560
ISBN: 0816512566
Label: University of Arizona Press
Manufacturer: University of Arizona Press
Number Of Items: 1
Number Of Pages: 178
Publication Date: 1991-07-01
Publisher: University of Arizona Press
Studio: University of Arizona Press

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Editorial Reviews:

A series of picaresque adventures set against the backdrop of a Japan still closed off from the rest of the world, Musui's Story recounts the escapades of samurai Katsu Kokichi. As it depicts Katsu stealing, brawling, indulging in the pleasure quarters, and getting the better of authorities, it also provides a refreshing perspective on Japanese society, customs, economy, and human relationships. From childhood Katsu was given to mischief. He ran away from home, once at thirteen, making his way as a beggar on the great trunk road between Edo and Kyoto, and again at twenty, posing as the emissary of a feudal lord. He eventually married and had children but never obtained official preferment and was forced to supplement a meager stipend by dealing in swords, selling protection to shopkeepers, and generally using his muscle and wits. Katsu's descriptions of loyalty and kindness, greed and deception, vanity and superstition offer an intimate view of daily life in nineteenth-century Japan unavailable in standard history books. Musui's Story will delight not only students of Japan's past but also general readers who will be entranced by Katsu's candor and boundless zest for life.

Spotlight customer reviews:

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: An Insightful Book
Comment: During the 1840s in Japan, Katsu Kokichi wrote his own life story in this book, which was translated into English by Teruko Craig. During the late period of the Tokugawa era, Katsu Kokichi came from a lower-class samurai family with a stipend of 100 koku of rice. Katsu became a rebel child during his earlier life and he has run into trouble numerous times throughout his lifetime. There are nine chapters in this book with the addition of Craig's introduction in which he gives the historical background of Katsu. Through the book, there is a moral insight on why samurai declined in the mid-1800s. By looking at Katsu's life and his surroundings in Tokugawa Japan, the role of samurai, how Katsu broke the code of samurai, why he behaved in dishonorable ways, and three small evidences for the decline of a samurai is analyzed.

The role model of a samurai was to be on his best behavior, not commit any acts of crimes which would disgrace his lord or his family, and to show his loyalty to his shogun and to his emperor. The samurai would set an example for his offspring or for his students in which they would soon become better samurai and honorable warriors. The son of a samurai would go to school to take lessons to be an educated swordsman and a skilled horse rider. In Katsu's book, the commoners or a fellow samurai had respected, honored, and treated Katsu family fairly as a samurai after he became known for helping out a few people in the critical situations, which was part of a samurai's honorable ways. But, whether samurai does something unwise or disgraceful in his own personal time, he not only dishonored himself but to his entire family house. This is what happened with Katsu when he broke the code.

With Katsu's lifestyle, breaking the code of a samurai is contemplated. Katsu's own lifestyle is different from other samurais because he had behaved badly and acts in an irresponsible way, as evident in this book. Judging from his actions and misdeeds, Katsu had cheated to get what he wanted. And, by judging his actions as a child would explained why he behaved in such dishonorable ways since he had shown that he does not want to learn his lessons at school and wanted to "have fun." Because he had issues at home and at school, Katsu developed a hatred and anger toward his fellow samurais and started getting into fights with them, which was not part of true lifestyle of a samurai. In some aspects of Katsu's behavior, he thought he was better than other samurais and became ignorant and shallow, which may have led to his failure of becoming a true honorable samurai and why he failed to hold government office post during his adult years.

Through Katsu's experiences in this book, there were three notable evidences which may have led the samurai class to decline in the mid-19th century. These evidences included he wealth of the samurai, the tax money, and the corruption between the samurai and the peasants. When one analyzed these evidences in this book, one would noticed why this is so.

The role of samurai, how Katsu broke the code of samurai, why he behaved in a dishonor ways, and the evidences of samurai's decline through Katsu's experiences is expressed very well in this book. The experiences of Katsu Kokcihi in "Musui's Story" were an interesting perspective of the lifestyle and the "feudal" culture in the Tokugawa Japan before the decline of samurai.

Such an insightful book, and it is to be recommended.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5
Summary: Musui's Story

In "Muisi's Story", an autobiography penned by Katsu Kiricho, the reader is treated to a glimpse of Tokugawa era Japan through the lens of a restless and rebellious samurai. This work reveals the other side of life in Edo (later Tokyo), which is far removed from the sanitized version found in history books and found on the pages of the sages and shogunate of that day. The fact that the country of Japan was in the midst of a prolonged period of peace and was united for over 200 years rendered the samurai dormant and lacking in enemies. So idleness became the enemy of some samurai and in this case the author Katsu.

In this setting, Katsu writes of his life and times. Living between the years of 1802 and 1850, Katsu was born into a samurai house, but at the age of seven was adopted into the home of another samurai family. And, from his earliest recollection, he exhibited a headstrong and confidently confrontational nature that would have served him well on the battlefield, but there were no battles to be fought. So, Katsu battled himself in an attempt to find meaning in life and to satisfy his insatiable appetite for adventure. And, in so doing, he broke from the traditional code of the samurai.

A contemporary of Katsu, Samurai Soshici composed a code for samurai to adhere to. In the code, he admonishes samurai to honor parents; honor superiors; maintain peace in the neighborhood; instruct descendants; be constant in your Way; and avoid bad behavior. Katsu broke all of these codes religiously. In fact, he stole from his family; disobeyed edicts; ran a protection racket; rarely mentioned his son; was never content in his Way; and frequented brothels like they were a Starbucks. Yet, somehow he seemed like a good guy.

And, in defense of his actions or a falling on his sword, Katsu reveals his rationale for his behavior and the purpose of his autobiography. Reflecting on his life, he argues in a thinly veiled fashion that although he was disenchanted with his achievements, it was not his fault, but instead he was merely a victim of his DNA. From his earliest recollections through his years of retirement, he was a man of action and adventure. Nevertheless, codes were broken and as a token of respect for these codes he changed his name in retirement from Katsu to Musui, which means, "besotted son." And, although he writes to admonish his grandchildren unto good behavior, more likely it was fashioned for the consumption of his son who was rising through the ranks.

In the last analysis, "Musui's Story" is an engaging view of the period and of the commonality of mankind. Moreover, the autobiography is an engaging glimpse of a man that is recognizable in his bold and restless ways. Even though we don't see this type of man often, they are the players that comprise urban legend.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: Record of a Scoundrel
Comment: Who writes an autobiography? Most people who write them are people of note, movers and shakers in their realms and time-periods, people with something to say. Rarely do we get to read the autobiography of a general loser, someone who is by no measure a good person, and someone completely beyond admiration. Welcome to Musui's world.

Musui, also know as Katsu Kokichi, was a low-ranking samurai and general good-for-nothing who never thought beyond his immediate needs, and did his best to attain something for nothing when ever possible. He started out bad, as a schoolyard bully who used his status as a samurai to push around lower-ranking kids. The older he got, the worse he got, and all means to control him or teach him respect failed, including his father locking him in a cage and forcing him to read classic military treatise. He was eventually adopted off into another family, which brought along with it a bride and a meager salary. It was never enough to keep up with his habit of visiting prostitutes in the Yoshiwara pleasure districts, so he was soon a leader amongst the black market, working with local extortionists and hoodlums, selling swords and working every possible kind of confidence racket.

Now, everything in this book should be taken with a grain of salt. Katsu was a grand liar with an enormous ego, who bluffed his way into money and out of trouble on a regular basis. His tales of his exemplary swordsmanship, his acts of kindness, his ability to drink bottle after bottle of sake without ever getting drunk, smacks as more wish-fulfillment than the true character of an unrepentant rouge. The translator, Teruko Craig, has added some notes on the accuracy of Katsu's tales, and surprisingly some of the most fantastic adventures are backed up by other sources. I suppose it is up to the reader to determine what is fact and what is fiction.

Teruko Craig has worked a minor miracle with this translation. Because of Katsu's sketchy literacy, and limited vocabulary, he has had to pull out all the stops in making a readable text that still maintains the flavor of Katsu's way of writing. The result is a very enjoyable, readable book that brings a nice balance to the world of the samurai. We have all read of the honor and integrity. It is nice to have some of the Low along with the High.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5
Summary: A different take on the on Samurai's
Comment: The life of a samurai is often considered a noble and respected one, but reading Musui's story will show you that there are always exceptions. This autobiography offers a unique glimpse into what would be a other wise unheard of life. Katsu Kokichi (Musui's younger name) wrote a biography of his life, but not as a work of literature. HE wrote this as a guide to his children, a guide on how not to live one's life. And considering how his son Rintaro turned out, it may have worked.

Early on in the book you get a sharp look at what kind of person Kokichi is. This made for a quite entertaining read due to the fact that Kokich led quite and interesting and perilous life. Hitting other kids with rocks, running away from home, and stealing money from family made up a substantial part of Kokich life.

It got so bad that at one point his family was forced to lock him in a cage for three years - some timeout. Aside from all the fighting and mischief, I found the most interesting part of this book was the times during which Kokich had run away from home. It was interesting to see the interaction Kokich had with the people he met during his travel and the measures that he took to stay alive and fed.

Overall I found the book enjoyable and easy to read. Being that it was an autobiography, I really enjoyed the perspective and insight on Kokichi's life that it offered.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: A different twist on history
Comment: Musui's Story is an autobiographical account of a low ranking samurai in the early 17th century and his station in life. Seen from the prologue and his after thoughts, he was sending a message "Live a better, more righteous life than mine. Learn from my mistakes and my experiences." The story was written from the perspective of a man who did not always do the right thing. If you are looking for a tale of a self-sacrificing, courageous, romanticized life of a great samurai warrior then this is not it. This is the life of a man who tried to survive by any means necessary in the Tokugawa period of Japan.

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