Posted by: B Gourley | January 9, 2013

Book Review: Takagi Oriemon, Budo Hero of Shiroishi

9781447769033Takagi Oriemon: Budō Hero of Shiroishi by Mamiya Hyoemon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an English translation of a book that was written long ago. The translation is by the Jinenkan Honbu Dojo — specifically Manaka Unsui (the head [Kancho] of the Jinenkan) and his students Robert Gray, Maurizio Mandarino, and Eric Shahan. The original is entitled Budo Shiroishi no Ei and was written in Japanese.

The book is the story of the seven-year warrior pilgrimage (musha shugyo) of a warrior named Takagi Oriemon who lived from 1625 to 1711. Takagi founded a martial arts school that, as was typical, branched out over the centuries. As I understand it, there are two or three descendant schools still in existence today.

Takagi was legendary for his strength. The book offers many accounts of descriptions of both his physical strength (from moving boulders to help farmers to chopping down a house to create a fire break) and his strength of mind (e.g. staying where others were afraid to because of hauntings.) However, mostly it portrays Takagi as a supremely humble and virtuous man. He misses no opportunity to assist those in need of help, and always humbly declines reward. He does not use his great power for wanton destruction, but does punish the wicked when no other choice remains.

Unlike Musashi’s Book of Five Rings or Yagyu’s The Life-Giving Sword, which are mostly about strategy, this book is mostly examples of virtuous living with a few strategic concepts thrown in.

I can offer a test for whether a reader might enjoy this book or not.

You’ll love this book if you:
– are fascinated by biographies of great martial artists.
– enjoy learning about life in Japan during the Tokugawa period.
– enjoy morality tales and the example set by great men and women.
– like to be inspired by people who really had their stuff together.
– don’t mind the occasional ghost story.

You won’t like this book if you:
– are an editor or English teacher and things like errant apostrophes make your head explode.
– are turned off by the flouting of conventional writing style (multi-speaker paragraphs of dialogue abound in this book.)
– find that ghost stories or supernatural elements completely ruin an otherwise down-to-earth read.
– find typos grate on your nerves.
– are really grossed out by gory manga-style line drawings (they are not all like that, but some are.)

I had to deduct at least a star for the many grammatical and formatting deficiencies of the book, but I still think everyone would gain from reading it and seeing the life example set by Takagi Oriemon: Budo Hero of Shiroishi.

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