Takuan Soho (沢庵宗彭)

Soho TAKUAN (January 3, 1574 - January 27, 1646) was a priest of the Rinzai Sect who was active in the Edo period. He was the juji (chief priest) of Daitoku-ji Temple.

He was born in Izushi in Tajima Province (present-day, Izushi-cho, Toyoka City, Hyogo Prefecture). He was once exiled to Dewa Province because of his involvement in the Shie Incident but was later pardoned and subsequently founded Tokai-ji Temple (Shinagawa-ku Ward, Tokyo) in Edo. He was familiar not only with painting, calligraphy and poetry but also with Chanoyu (the tea ceremony) and he left many bakuseki (writing, especially of a Zen monk). Although he is widely believed to be the inventor of takuanzuke (pickled daikon radish), there are many views on this subject (refer to the column on takuanzuke).

Record of his Upbringing

On January 3, 1574, he was born as the second son of Tsunanori, Noto no kami (the governor of Noto Province), AKIBA in Izushi, Tajima Province. His father, Tsunanori AKIBA, was a senior vassal of Suketoyo YAMANA, then the castellan of Izushi-jo Castle in Tajima Province. When he was eight years old, the Yamana family was ruined by the invasion of Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI and his father became a ronin (masterless samurai). When he was ten years old, Takuan became a priest at Shonen-ji Temple in Izushi and was granted Kaimyo (posthumous Buddhist names) of Shuno. When he was 14 years old, he joined Sukyo-ji Temple in Izushi and studied under Saido KISEN. He changed his name to Shuki. In 1591, when Saido KISEN passed away, Nagayasu MAENO, who had become the castellan of Izushi-jo Castle by then, invited Sochu TOHO, a disciple of Soen SHUNOKU, from Daitoku-ji Temple as the chief priest of Sukyo-ji Temple. Takuan then studied under Sochu.

In 1594, Toho went up to Kyoto as he became the juji of Daitoku-ji Temple and Takuan followed him and joined Daitoku-ji Temple. At Daitoku-ji Temple, he studied under Soen SHUNOKU of Sangenin Temple and changed his name to Soho. After the demise of Toho, he moved to Sakai City in Izumi Province. In Sakai, he studied under Shoteki ITTO of Yoshunin of Nanshu-ji Temple and was granted hogo (a Buddhist name) of Takuan in 1604. In 1607, Takuan became shuso (the leader of monks practicing asceticism) of Daitoku-ji Temple and while residing at Tokuzen-ji Temple situated in Daitoku-ji Temple, he also became the chief priest of Nanshu-ji Temple. In 1609, he was promoted to the 154th chief priest of Daitoku-ji Temple at 37, but Takuan, who didn't seek fame and wealth, left Daitoku-ji Temple three days after his promotion and returned to Sakai. In 1620, he returned to his birthplace Izushi and lived in a hermitage built at Sukyo-ji Temple, which had been revived by Yoshihide KOIDE, then the lord of a domain. This hermitage was named Toenken.

The Shie Incident

After the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) was established, its control of temples became tighter through the establishment of jiinhatto (laws for temples), and so on. In particular, against the influential temples such as Daitoku-ji Temple, regulations aiming to weaken their ties with the Imperial Court, called Kinchu Narabini Kuge Shohatto (Laws for Aristocrats), were also imposed. In these acts, it was stipulated that a priest who assumed the position of juji of Daitoku-ji temple was nominated by Edo bakufu, instead of the imperial decree issued by the Emperor, and only priests who obtained the approval of bakufu were allowed to wear sie (the purple Buddhist priest stole) granted by the Emperor.

In 1627, the bakufu annulled Emperor Gomizunoo's charter that allowed the wearing of sie by reason of violating the acts and ordered Kyoto Shoshidai (The Kyoto deputy) to confiscate the sie in question. Takuan, who opposed bakufu's decision, went up to Kyoto in a hurry, organized monks of Daitoku-ji Temple in cooperation with Sohaku, a former chief priest, and launched a campaign against it together with Tanden and Togen of Myoshin-ji Temple. In 1629, the bakufu exiled Takuan, Sohaku, Tanden and Togen to Kaminoyama City in Dewa Province, Tanakura in Mutsu Province, Yuri in Mutsu Province and Tsugaru, respectively.

Later Years

In 1632, the Ordinance of Amnesty was issued when Shogun Hidetada TOKUGAWA passed away and those priests who had been involved in the Shie Incident were pardoned thanks to the efforts of Tenkai and Munenori YAGYU. "Fudochi Shinmyo Roku" (The Miracle of Immovable Wisdom), which compiled letters which Takuan had sent to Munenori YAGYU, is well-known as the one preaching 'Kenzen ichimi' (The Sword and Zen are One). Takuan then went to Edo and joined Kanda Kotoku-ji Temple. Takuan, however, was not allowed to return immediately to Kyoto and in the winter of the same year, he moved to Naoyori HORI's second house located in Komagome and stayed there until the summer of 1634. When Shogun Iemitsu TOKUGAWA came up to Kyoto after Takuan had returned to Daitoku-ji Temple together with Sohaku, he had an audience with Iemitsu due to the exhortation of Munenori YAGYU and Naoyori HORI. From that time, Iemitsu became a devout believer of Takuan.

In the same year, he returned to his birthplace Izushi but in the following year, he again went to Edo in response to an eager request made by Iemitsu. Takuan did not want to stay in Edo but he could not return to his birthplace because of Iemitsu's strong request. Iemitsu constructed Tokai-ji Temple on Mt. Bansho at Shinagawa and nominated Takuan as its juji. Iemitsu often consulted with Takuan concerning political matters. The above are believed to be conciliatory measures by Iemitsu. Conversely, it shows the fact about how strong Takuan's influence was.

On January 27, 1646, Takuan passed away in Edo. Although his graves exist at Sukyo-ji Temple and Tokai-ji Temple, Takuan used to say that he didn't need a grave. Takuan's words and deeds in his later years could be interpreted as his apostasy or the fact that he was won over to Iemitsu's side. Under such circumstance, historical assessment of Takuan is not yet determined.

Takuanzuke (pickled daikon)

It is generally believed that takuanzuke, pickled daikon, was invented by Takuan or was spread by Takuan in Edo while it had been popular only in the Kansai region. According to the latter view, it is believed that when Takuan served takuwaezuke (literally, pickle to preserve) of daikon to Iemitsu taking the opportunity of his visit to Tokai-ji Temple, Iemitsu was satisfied with it and said 'It should be named Takuanzuke rather than takuwaezuke,' but this is no more than hearsay.

Relations with Musashi MIYAMOTO

Takuan is often connected with Musashi in fiction. In Miyamoto Musashi written by Eiji YOSHIKAWA, for example, he is depicted as a key person who bears the role of admonishing Musashi.