Famous Japanese People: Ikkyu Sojun

Most children in Japan, especially in Kyoto, know of Ikkyu Sojun. The anime based on him lasted seven years, becoming one of the top hundred best anime in Japan in 2005. There are countless books and manga about him as well.

Ikkyu was born in 1394 and eventually became a zen master and a poet, studying under a well known priest named Botetsu. After that, he continued to write poems and practice zen. There is now a temple called Ikkyu-ji where Ikkyu lived for awhile.

But this certainly isn’t the reason I decided to make a post about him, nor why many children know him. He is known for his intelligence and wits. The stories about him aren’t all true, but for reasons I don’t know, the stories I will now tell you about were passed on for generations, and continue to amuse children to this day.

Don’t Cross This Bridge

Once upon a time, a samurai (Japanese knight) invited Ikkyu for dinner. Ikku happily marched up to the samurai’s house, only to find that the bridge leading to the samurai’s house had a sign reading, “Don’t walked across this bridge”. But Ikku was not hindered by the sign, and crossed it without hesitation. Later, the samurai asked him, “Did you not read the sign? How did you get here?”

Ikkyu smiled and said, “I read it. I didn’t walk across it, I ran!”

Capture the Tiger

Another day, Ikkyu was invited again to dine with a famous general. When he arrived, the samurai frowned and said, “The picture of the tiger on the wall comes out and tries to eat me at night. Can you please capture it?”

The samurai knew of Ikkyu’s wits and intelligence, so the samurai was trying to test him.

Ikkyu got a rope, and tied a bandana around his head, and glared at the wall with the tiger. “Now, can you please get the tiger out of the wall?”

Don’t Eat the Poison

This is a story of when Ikkyu was very young. He lived in a temple with other boys. The temple master liked sweet things and often licked sweet syrup from a vase. But he always told Ikkyu and his friends that it was poisonous to children, and they would die if they ate it.

One day when the temple master was away, Ikkyu purposely broke a vase and ate all of the syrup. When the master came back, Ikkyu said, “I tried to die because I broke your precious vase by eating the poison, but for some reason I’m still alive.”

What did you think about the stories? I always enjoyed them, and they always impressed me. How amazing would it have been if he used his intelligence for God’s glory instead of zen and false gods?

Well, that’s it for now! See you next time and God bless.

3 thoughts on “Famous Japanese People: Ikkyu Sojun

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