Saito Tokiyori (斉藤時頼)
Tokiyori SAITO (year of birth and death unknown) was a samurai in the late Heian period. He was the son of Mochiyori SAITO (the Hikida-Saito clan) and lost his mother in the early childhood. It is said that he was almost 180 centimeters tall. He became a Buddhist priest to sever all contact with 'Yokobue,' his lover, and was called 'Takiguchi Nyudo' (Takiguchi (the Imperial Palace Guards for the north side) Monk). This sad love story is cited in "Heike Monogatari" (The tale of the Heike) and became famous when Chogyu TAKAYAMA published "Takiguchi Nyudo," an adaptation of the sad love story, in 1894.
Tokiyori's Dharma name after becoming a Buddhist priest was derived from the fact that he was a Takiguchi Musha (Takiguchi no Bushi) (the Imperial Palace Guards for the north side, near waterfall), who guarded the Imperial Palace. He was also a Rokuhara warrior (warriors of the Taira clan) and served TAIRA no Shigemori, the minister of center in the Imperial Court. He left home and lived the life of a Buddhist renunciate to forget his affection for Yokobue, his lover. Afterwards, Tokiyori continued to immerse himself in spiritual practices and rose to the eighth chief Buddhist monk of Daien-in Temple, the Bekkaku-honzan (quasi-head temple) of Mt. Koya Shingon Sect.
Sad love with Yokobue
It was when the Taira family was in its heydays. TAIRA no Kiyomori (Shigemori's father), then the most powerful political mogul, enjoyed the fruits of unparalleled success. One day, Kiyomori hosted a flower-viewing party at his residence in Nishi Hachijo, and Tokiyori SAITO numbered among participants. As entertainment at the party, Yokobue, who served Kenreimonin (Shigemori's younger sister), performed a dance. Tokiyori was entranced by Yokobue's beauty and her skilled dancing and fell in love with her at first sight.
With Yokobue becoming unforgettable from that night, Tokiyori decided to send a letter to Yokobue to confess his love for her. And while she was courted by scores of men, she was enthralled by Tokiyori's unsophisticated but affectionate letter and decided to accept him.
Tokiyori's father, however, never accepted this love between the two of different classes. Feeling hurt, Tokiyori made up his mind to become a Buddhist priest without telling Yokobue. He lived in Ojo-in Temple in Saga (currently, Takiguchi-dera Temple) and immersed himself in Buddhist apprenticeship to forget his love for Yokobue.
Knowing Tokiyori's departure, Yokobue visited a number of temples across the region to look for him. One day at dusk, she heard Tokiyori's chanting a prayer in the Saga area.
She was filled with longing to see Tokiyori again, but he is said to have refused her in tears, saying, 'seeing you will impede spiritual practice.'
It is said that on her way home, Yokobue cut her finger and wrote in blood the following elegy on a stone, hoping that Tokiyori would know her feelings: Deep in the mountains, Feel restless and visit a shack, Hope the gate will guide me, To the true path.
Considering that Yokobue's another visit would hinder his Buddhist apprenticeship, Takiguchi Nyudo moved to Seijo-in Temple on Mt. Koya, a place where women were prohibited from visiting. It is said that Yokobue, knowing Tokiyori's moving out, felt devastated and drowned herself in the Oi-gawa River or that she left home and lived the life of a Buddhist renunciate at Hokke-ji Temple in Nara. After knowing Yokobue's death, Takiguchi Nyudo further devoted himself to Buddhism spiritual practices and became a Koya Hijiri (peddler priests dispatched from Mt. Koya) afterwards. He rose to the eighth chief Buddhist priest of Daien-in Temple and presented himself as a witness when TAIRA no Koremori (Shigemori's son) drowned himself off the coast of Katsuura, Kishu (the present Wakayama Prefecture).