Of all the swordsmen of Japan, Miyamoto Musashi is probably the one who has caught the imagination most strongly: the subject of plays, novels, non-fiction, several TV series and movies, and of course his own writing continues to sell well to this day.
And, like many figures from the past, our knowledge of Musashi is colored by these many fictional renditions of the character. While western audiences often dwell on the violence of his life, impressed by his record of victories in duels, the Japanese view is more nuanced, and tends to take personal development as its major theme. The most famous example of this approach is the novel Musashi by Yoshikawa Eiji, originally released in serialised form in the 1930s. Musashi is depicted as a young man looking to develop his skills to become the strongest swordsman in the country. The depiction shows a driven, single-minded, yet chivalrous character, who grows as he learns from the pain and sacrifices involved in the pursuit of his dream. His childhood friend, Matahachi acts as a foil to Musashi – a kind of everyman who follows his whims, doesn’t have the strength of character to suffer for his dreams, and tries to achieve success without achievement. The contrast between the two is clear, though many will see as much of Matahachi in themselves as Musashi. (via