Taigu Ryokan was born in the Echigo (now Nigata) Province of northern Japan in 1785. The son of the village headman -- a successful merchant and haiku poet of some note -- Ryokan was schooled in Japanese and Chinese literature as well as religion and calligraphy. When he was eighteen years old Ryokan met the Zen Master Kokusen and accompanied him to the Entsu-Ji temple in Tamashima where he became a Buddhist monk. Ryokan excelled at his monastic studies and was offered the position of head of the monastery when Kokusen died. But he rejected both the position and the title of Master, electing to instead wander the countryside of Japan, begging and writing poetry. He eventually moved into a hermitage (called Gogo-an or 'Five Measures of Rice') at the foot of Mt. Kugami where he lived for the remainder of his life.
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