8. Miyamoto Musashi
Another Japanese hero, Miyamoto Musashi wielded his sword like no other, pioneering the development of sword fighting within the country. A vagabond of sorts, he began traveling the nation to duel from a young age, making a name for himself with nothing but a wooden sword he had fashioned from a tree branch.
Perhaps his greatest moment came following a string of duels against the Yoshioka School. After Musashi killed the school’s master and his brother in respective duels, the school plotted to kill the legendary swordsman under the guise of a third duel at night.
Suspicious of the unusual selection for the time of day, Musashi arrived hours earlier, hiding in the fields in wait for his opponent. Sure enough, his adversary arrived with a bona fide army with retainers, swordsmen, riflemen, and archers ready to ambush Musashi.
At the perfect moment, he sprang forth, killing his opponent in one stroke, only to be surrounded on all sides. Closed in and tremendously outnumbered, Musashi drew both his swords, cutting a path through the fields and finally escaping into the night. From there, he created his trademark Nito Ryu (dual-wielding) style of kenjutsu that would shake the boundaries of swordsmanship in his era.
7. Hattori Hanzo
Easily the most legendary ninja ever to walk the Earth, Hattori Hanzo is the role model of all night-crawling assassins. In fact, his skills were so great that he was thought to have supernatural powers. A full-fledged ninja at age 12, Hanzo would earn the moniker “Hanzo the Demon” around 16, instilling fear in the hearts of all his enemies.
So mysterious were his abilities that many of his achievements were only thought to be possible through precognition, psychokinesis, and teleportation. Another survivor of outnumbered battles, he once led 30 men against Takeda Shingen’s troops, effectively mounting a counterattack and nipping their advance in the bud.
Although Hanzo had already lived a life of distinction on the battlefield, his most memorable achievement was escorting Tokugawa Ieyasu back to Mikawa with the aid of Iga ninja in the area. Tokugawa would go on to become unified Japan’s first shogun, and Hanzo would die at age 55 (some sources say 54). His legacy remains to this day in Tokyo where “Hanzo’s Gate” stands proudly at the Imperial Palace.