Hara castle

The Shimabara Rebellion is the last time Musashi saw action on the battle field. The rebellion was centered around Hara castle, an abandoned castle on the Shimabara Peninsula on the northern shore of Kyushu.

The Shimabara Rebellion was also the first—and only—time Musashi was joined by his son, Iori (see Musashi’s Children). Not a warrior like his father, he probably served Tadazane in a civil capacity, safely behind the battle lines. Yet is seems Iori was of great use, for the Harima kagami claims that he “rendered distinguished services to his lordship” in the course of the battle, in reward for which his stipend was increased to three thousand koku, until he was finally raised to the rank of senior retainer.

This important appointment had come about partly through the generous mediation of Arima Naozumi. Now the lord of Nobeoka castle in the province of Hyūga, he originally hailed from Hizen, and Hara castle stood on his former domains. Due to his intimate knowledge of the terrain he had played a leading role in the castle’s siege, in the course of which he had come to know Iori intimately.

Writing to Naozumi in the wake of the battle, Musashi expressed his gratitude:


that my son Iori was entrusted with the role of evaluating our military actions following the battle. I also believe that I conducted your men to the positions you had in mind, and everyone was full of praise about the swiftness with which you and your father managed to press on to the castle’s inner circle.

Uniquely, he also gave a glimpse of how he himself had fared during the siege:


As for myself, I was struck on the shins twice by rocks, making it impossible for me to put any weight on my legs at present, so I beg your pardon for not coming down to thank you in person.

The siege of Hara castle was to be the last time the Tokugawa hegemony was disturbed and the last time Musashi saw action. He was now fifty-four years old and had taken part in as many as six battles, all of them on Kyushu soil except, of course, the Osaka campaign. His first experience of the battlefield had been more than forty years earlier, on the island’s northern shore, when during the fierce battle on the plains of Ishigaki he first saw action under Kuroda Yoshitaka. In the subsequent siege of Tomiku castle he had brazenly climbed its defenses, wrestling with a lance of one of its occupants. Now he had done his utmost to keep Lord Nagatsugu from indulging in similar antics, incurring serous wounds himself as a result—he was beginning to feel old and weary of the battlefield.

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