Two popular songs from Ryōkan's notebooks

No longer by mere idleness from your true path be swayed/ Tend only to what matters: smoking, drink, and getting laid.
Birds live in the treetops, fish live in the streams/ Man lives in his feelings and vacations in his dreams

Special bonus 1: Tanka about ball-bouncing rhyme!

Ball-bouncing rhyme: One two three, four five six, seven eight nine, ten, ten, and start again

Special bonus 2: Bizarre correspondence!

ハイ今日は 雑炊の味噌一かさ下され度候。ハイサヤウナラ
Yes today I want a cup of zōsui miso please. Yes goodbye

"Songi 存疑," notes editor Tōgō Toyoharu 東郷豊治: "Doubts remain." Indeed.

Popularity factor: 9

L.N. Hammer:

The ball-bouncing rhyme has a nice swing to it.


A good improvement on Jesus. By the way, I didn't know Ryōkan was an ethnographer...


I just noticed that the New World Encyclopedia cites the ball-bouncing song as a love poem to Teishin, according to her own compilation of his poems:


By the way, is こ here being used for "eight", or is there a や missing?


Huh, I didn't even notice that missing "ya". Definitely missing from my edition, though (and online versions I can find). I wonder if it's some sort of pun, like 春夏冬 = "akinai" (秋ない).

And yeah, Ryōkan was all things to all people...

language hat:

Did he try to pay for his miso with poems, like those impecuious French painters with their drawings?


Since nobody else answered that... Ryokan had a bit of trouble with people demanding his calligraphy. He also had a bit of trouble with money. The way this worked out was that, by the by, he would wind up "paying" for goods and services by doing calligraphy and poetry on demand. There are many funny stories about this which can be found in standard Ryokan biographies.

My standard Ryokan biography was grabbed away from me by an evil study abroad program assistant, and I refused to pay his ransom, so I'm afraid I can't explain in more detail.

language hat:

And here I thought I was just having my little joke! Thanks for answering and confirming my hunch that didn't know it was even a hunch.


The more you know! Thanks Avery. Incidentally I believe that ISO has defined one standard Ryokan biography to be equal to 1.2 standard Ikkyu biographies, so maybe you can start with one of thise and just ignore the last fifty pages or so.


That first poem is awesome. And the translation is brilliant too- it has such a nice overly-cultured tone to it that just makes the actual content even funnier.

Comment season is closed.