Across the centuries, the singular genius of Ikkyu (1394 – 1481) intrigues and sometimes irritates; but always he dazzles, as it is evident from his literary offspring which proliferates nowadays, particularly in the form of manga.
Who was Ikkyû? How to explain the complex personality he was? As a sarcastic observer and rebel of society, he is remarked because of his impertinence and insolent independence of spirit just as much as because of the avidity with which he consumed all the pleasures of life. He is not only known for being a poet full of creative faculties with tremendous audacity, as shows his ‘Kyôun-shû’, but also for being a very much admired calligrapher; concerning his being a monk, he did a fantastic task in rebuilding the Daitoku-ji Temple, one of the great shrines of Kyoto, where he founded the Shinju-an sub-temple and his whole life has been dedicated to safeguarding the original spirit of Zen Buddhism.
This extraordinary character, no one better could revive him then his actual successor, the reverend Sôshô Yamada. He is the 27th abbot of the Shinju-an temple founded by Ikkyu himself, belonging to the great temple Daitoku-ji, Kyoto, home of Rinzai Zen Buddhism. He leads the religious services of the Daitoku-ji teaching school. In this essay, Yamada offers the reader, along with a biography of Ikkyu, an annotated anthology of poems and koans written by this Zen master, illustrated through a rich iconography of hitherto unpublished photos, mostly taken by himself.