Miyamoto Musashi and Sasaki Kojiro, well known by all Japanese people as the leading fencers in Japan, fought the historical duel in the 17th century at Funashima also called Ganryujima island on the Kanmon Strait between Honshu and Kyushu.
Miyamoto Musashi, the founder of the new school of two-sword fencing, is widely known not only as a master fencer but also as an artist and a writer of Gorin-sho strategy book. It is said that he had fought more than 60 duels with great swordmen across Japan in his youth.
On the other hand, Sasaki Kojiro whose background is vague, widely traveled throughout Japan for perfecting his skill in ‘kendo’ Japanese fencing and finally founded ‘tsubame-gaeshi’ art of fencing that was also called ‘ganryu’. He was destined to meet Musashi when he worked as an instructor in fencing for the Kokura feudal clan, present Kitakyushu City, Fukuoka Prefecture.
The reason why they combated for supremacy on this island is uncertain, however it seems that the fierce argument over a question as to which fencing master was superior led the two into the duel.
A small island was selected as the venue in order to avoid the help of the trainees on both sides. This duel ended up in a defeat for Kojiro. Thereafter many movies and novels have been made on the theme of this event.
The name of ‘ganryu-jima’ has since become a byword for many crucial duels in Japan.
By Masahisa Takaki.
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