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Wednesday, July 02, 2014

To Ganryujima

The NHK's 2003 Taiga Drama was the story of the legendary swordsman, Miyamoto Musashi.

Akama Shrine

Based on the novel by Eiji Yoshikawa, the show presented some speculative fiction, but that didn't matter to me at all. This was my first Taiga Drama, and I was completely mesmerized by the action taking place on the screen. After each episode a short travelog aired, showing the historical locations connected to the evening's presentation. These vignettes piqued my interest in the country of Japan.

When my daughter and I traveled to Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi Prefecture we planned to visit Ganryujima, site of the infamous duel between Musashi and Sasaki Kojiro.

We boarded one of the ferry boats and it first motored over to the waters near Akama Shrine. Founded in 1185, Akama Shrine is dedicated to the young Emperor Antoku, who perished at Dan-no-ura in the last and decisive battle of the Genpei Wars. We had seen the demise of the Heike Clan played out in the NHK's "Yoshitsune" (2005) and "Kiyomori" (2012).


After pausing briefly at the shrine, the ferry headed for the small island. We disembarked, and as we began walking a man beckoned to us to listen to the story of the duel. While a small group gathered, he sold sticks wound with spun sugar for 100 yen.

He then gave his interesting presentation. If you do not know the story, it is a good idea to stop, sit, and listen, because there is not much to see on the island itself - and then you are able to imagine the duel and the events leading up to it.

Musashi and Kojiro engaged in battle

Later, Amanda and I saw the statue of Musashi and Kojiro engaged in battle, a brief moment in time, literally - for Musashi put away Kojiro with one fell swoop, and then he left the island.

And when we left the island, what did we see? Not a Heike Crab anywhere, but only jellyfish.


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