Kumamoto Castle

In 1640, having looked around for a place to spend his last days, Musashi accepted the invitation of Hosokawa Tadatoshi (1586–1641), the daimyō of the Kumamoto fief in southern Kyushu.The Bukōden describes how:


Lord Tadatoshi granted Musashi a stipend sufficient to support seventeen servants, and also gave him three hundred koku in kind. Perhaps it was because Musashi stayed in his lordship’s domain as a guest that he was not taken up in his retinue of retainers. His dwelling was situated at the high place of Kumamoto’s Chiba castle.

Having been written by Toyoda Masanaga, a retainer of the Nagaoka, who in turn were close vassals to the Hosokawa, it is not surprising that the Bukōden is one of the few records to mention where exactly Musashi lived after he had settled in Kumamoto. Somewhat confusingly, the place Masanaga describes as Chiba castle was situated within the walls of Kumamoto castle. Situated inside one of the curves of the Hirai River, on the eastern side of the castle grounds, Chiba Castle was in fact also the original site of Kumamoto castle.

Chiba castle had once been the residence of the Ideta, an old clan from Kyushu. It was erected in the second half of the fifteenth century by Ideta Hidenobu, but later replaced by Kumamoto castle, albeit at a slightly different location. Today, the area is still known as the Chiba castle district, or Chibajō machi, although it is now situated outside the castle grounds. The old castle well, believed by many to have once been used by Musashi, can still be visited. 

It seems that, from the moment Musashi began on his life’s work, his seminal Gorin no sho, the aging swordsman spent less and less time at his yashiki on the former grounds of Chiba castle and more and more time in the Reigan Cave—so much so, that, again according to the Bukoden:


Strange but groundless rumors were beginning to circulate among the populace and, feigning that he had gone out to hunt with falcons, Lord Nagaoka Yoriyuki prevailed on Musashi to return to the old residence of Chiba castle.

It was at his yashiki on the former grounds of Chiba castle that, on 13 June 1645, Musashi passed away peacefully at the age of sixty.

The terrible damage wrought by the 2016 earthquake is apparent at the Hohoategomon Gate

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