Written by Kagita Chūbee, 20th sōke of the Hōzōinryū
Yagyū and Hōzōin
The region called Yagyū1 was located 36 km away from Kyōto and more than 10 km away from Nara. In the East it bordered upon the province of Iga which made it very easy to obtain information about the powerful clans in all of Japan2. Due to its abundance of water the region was very fertile. Furthermore Yagyū together with Nara and Iga was an area that produced a lot of martial artists, amongst others the Yagyū clan with the sword, Hōzōin Inei and Takada Matabee with the spear, Bōan3 with naginata and spear, Heki Danjō Masatsugu4 with bow and arrow or the members of the ninja school Igaryū.
During the Taika Reforms (646) the Yamato province was devided into six districts one of which was Yagyū. From that time on Yagyū was a fief held by the Fujiwara clan until the kanpaku5 Fujiwara no Yorimichi6 endowed it to the Kasuga shrine which was the family shrine of the Fujiwaras. Amongst the powerful families that administered this shrine territory the house of Yagyū distinguished itself the most. And it survived the ages of constant warfare. In the second year of Kyōroku (1529) Yagyū Muneyoshi was born in Yagyū as the the son of Ieyoshi. Because he grew up in war times Muneyoshi trained diligently in the martial arts and became a youth that was regarded as the best fighter in the Kinai area7.
Kamiizumi Ise no Kami Nobutsuna's ancestors on the other hand had been lords of Ōgo castle in the Seta district of the province of Kōzuke8 for generations. After they were attacked by Hōjō Ujiyasu9 the Kamiizumis10 joined Uesugi Kenshin11. But then Uesugi was attacked by Takeda Shingen12, and when Minowa castle13 fell the Kamiizumis rendered their own castle14 as well and were integrated into Takedas army. Nobutsuna however declined to serve the house of Takeda, a fact Shingen in light of Nobutsuna's great talents regretted very much, because he wanted to devote himself to Buddhism and the training of his Shinkageryū which he had constructed from Aisu Ikōsai's15 Kageryū and the Shintōryū and instead started on a pilgrimage through all of Japan accompanied by a couple of his disciples.
The first person he visited was Kitabatake Tomonori16 who was governor of the Ise province and a master swordsman who had been initiated to the secrets of the Shintōryū by Tsukahara Bokuden Takamoto17. On this occasion Tomonori told Nobutsuna that Yagyū Shinzaemon Muneyoshi's sword skills were unparalleled in all of central Japan and that there was a very talented spear fencer by the name of Hōzōin Inei at the Kōfukuji in Nara. Hearing this Nobutsuna and his entourage visited the Hōzōin without losing time in the year Eiroku 6 (1563). At that time Nobutsuna was 56, Muneyoshi 35 and Inei 43 years old and each of the three men was at the peak of his technical maturity. Presumably Inei and Muneyoshi had become friends via the martial arts. So it was only natural for Inei to invite Muneyoshi to the Hōzōin at this occasion. In the dōjō of which Muneyoshi lost in three duels aganinst Nobutsuna on three consecutive days whereupon he and Inei became Nobutsunas disciples. From that day on Muneyoshi trained even harder. When Nobutsuna visited Yagyū again in April of Eiroku 818 Muneyoshi was able to demonstrate the technique "Mutōdori"19 assigned to him by Nobutsuna in a way that Nobutsuna declared him his legitimate succesor as headmaster of the Shinkageryū. In August of the same year Inei also received his certificate of mastery of the art. Through hard training Muneyoshi had made Kamiizumi's Shinkageryū his own. Building on this foundation he spent even more years until he finally founded the Yagyū Shinkageryū. Inei on the other hand used Nobutsunas principles as the foundation he built the Hōzōinryū on.
In the year Bunroku 2 (1593) Muneyoshi shaved his head and took the name Tajimanyūdō Sekishūsai Sōgonbecame as a Buddhistic monk. In the year Bunroku 3 (1594) he met Tokugawa Ieyasu20 for the first time. Ieyasu was so impressed by the tremendous quality of Muneyoshi's martial art's abilities that wanted him to enter his service. But due to his high age Muneyoshi didn't find himself equal to this task and recommended his fifth son Mataemon () instead. Muneyoshi died on the 19th day of the fourth month of the year Keichō 11 (1606) in Yagyū.
(First published in the Nara town magazine Ubusuna on June 5th 2009)