(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!