Tomonaga (
Fri, 12 May 2000 10:03:43 +1200

Nightingale wrote:

> "Ikkyu" was broadcasted in Hong Kong way back in the
> early-1980's under the Chinese title (roughly) "Smart
> Little Monk" on local Cantonese TV station, ATV. It
> was a hit, and many of us were impressed by Ikkyu's 30
> secs of quick-wits to solve puzzling, and some life
> threatening, questions and problems :) Core, you
> remember this show, don't you? ;)
> I have very little knowledge in history of Japan, but
> the animation told us the grown-up Ikkyu will
> eventually became an anti-war activist of that period.
> Tet, do you know what happen to Ikkyu in real life?

I fondly remember watching that programme. It had a very catchy OP
song. I haven't heard it for ~20years and it's still fresh in my mind
and I can still sing the beginning. : )

I wonder how many children emulated Ikkyu's technique when stumped with a
problem ? I know I did : )

Anyway, here is his brief biography:

Ikkyu (1394-1481)

Zen priest of the Muromachi period. Ikkyu Sojun was born of a common
family in Kyoto, though the unfounded rumour that he was an illegitimate
offspring of the emperor spread later.

When he was six years old, he entered a temple of Zen Buddhism. At 16,
he criticised the existing Zen sect as corrupt. After assiduously
practising austerity, he was spiritually awakened at 27. Thereafter, he
endeavoured to spread the teachings of the Zen sect among the general

He displayed exceptional wisdom and sense of humour from his childhood.
Amusing anecdotes told of him were compiled into a book which became very
popular in the Edo period and Ikkyu became an household name. This is the
book upon which the anime is based.

Later in life, Ikkyu seldom stayed at a particular temple for long. He
spent most of his time making pilgrimages to various parts of the
country. According to tradition, he intentionally sought humble temples
for his lodgings because he diskliked big temples, which he thought were
bent on making money.

Some interesting facts:

- As a child, Ikkyu was called before the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, who
jokingly ordered him to rope up a tiger in a picture drawn on one of the
panels of a folding screen. To this, Ikkyu smiled and said that he would
tie up the tiger as soon as the shogun drove it out of the picture.

- Ikkyu's hermitage in the Daitokuji temple of Kyoto had no paper on the
paper-fitted slidng screen, allowing rain and snow to enter the room
directly. This unique setup represents his idea that one's spirit could
be trained not only by appreciating the beauty of nature but also by
withstanding the harshness of nature.

- At times in later life, Ikkyu carried with him a wooden sword. When
asked about the reason, he answered 'This sword is a sham one, hence
cannot be a murderous weapon. Present day Buddhism is a deception, hence
cannot save mankind.'

- Also later in life, on every New Year's day, he carried with him a
stick with a skull on top of it, saying 'True, the New Year's day is a
day to be celebrated. But each time one greets the New Year, he takes a
step towards his death*. Hence, New Year's day is really a day on which
one should earnestly meditate on his way of life for the year.'

*In the past, age was increased by 1 on each New Year's day regardless of
the actual birthday.


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