(1758-1831) One of the pre-eminent Zen
poets of Japan
, Ryokan grew up in the village of Izumozaki in Echigo province on the west coast of Japan. As a young man named Yamamoto Eizo, he got down with the geisha
, drank, danced and generally acted like a wild thing
. But high living wasn't all it was cracked up to be. in 1777, he gave up the post of village headman he'd inherited from his father and became a monk
. Given the name Ryokan (ryo
= good, kan
= bighearted, generous) he trained at various monasteries until 1795, when he learned of the suicide of his father. Coming back to the village of his birth, he found an old hermitage on a nearby mountain and remained there until his death almost forty years later.
In this hermitage, which he named Gogo-an (a gogo is half of a sho, the amount of rice needed to sustain someone for a day, an means monastery or temple.) he wrote a large collection of haiku and waka poetry. In between, he begged for food in the nearby town, played with kids, drank with farmers, went hungry, got wet.
- Today's begging is finished; at the crossroads
- I wander by the side of Hachiman Shrine
- Talking with some children.
- Last year, a foolish monk;
- This year, no change!