Takuan Sōhō (1573–1645) was a major figure in the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism. Takuan Sōhō was born into a family of farmers in the town of Izushi, located in what was at that time called Tajima province (present-day Hyōgo Prefecture). At the age of 8 in 1581 young Takuan began his religious studies and 2 years later he would lead a life at a Buddhist monastery. By the age of 14 in 1587, Takuan started studying the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism under the tutelage of his sensei Shun-oku Soen. By the impressive age of 36 in 1608, Takuan's mastery of Zen granted him the privilege of being made abbot of the Daitoku-ji Temple in Kyoto, Japan. Unfortunately, Takuan's appointment was shortened as he left for a prolonged period of traveling. Throughout his journeys, Takuan raised and collected funds for the renovation of Daitoku-ji Temple and other Zen temples. In 1629, Takuan was banished to northern Japan by the Shogunate of Hidetada Tokugawa due to his protest of political interference in Buddhist temple matters pertaining to ecclesiastical appointments. By 1632, there was a general amnesty after the death of Hidetada Tokugawa and Takuan’s period of banishment came at an end. Later, Takuan was invited by Tokugawa Iemitsu (1604–51) to become the first abbot of Tokai-ji Temple in Edo, which was constructed especially for the Tokugawa family. Takuan Sōhō died in Edo (present-day Tokyo) in December of 1645. At the moment before his death, Takuan painted the Chinese character "dream", laid down his brush and died. His tomb is located in the Shinagawa area of Tokyo at Oyama Cemetery of Tokaiji Temple. It is stated that Takuan advised and befriended many persons, from all social strata of life. Some of those include:
Miyamoto Musashi (kenjutsu master)
Matsudaira Dewa no Kami (Daimyo)
Ishida Mitsunari (Daimyo)
Kuroda Nagamasa (Christian Daimyo)
Yagyū Munenori (Daimyo and kenjutsu master, head of Yagyū Shinkage-ryū style of swordsmanship) - Takuan's writings to kenjutsu master, Lord Yagyū Munenori, are commonly studied by contemporary martial artists.
Go-Mizunoo (abdicated Japanese Emperor)
Tokugawa Iemitsu (Shogun)
Itō Ittōsai (swordsman)
With regards to his character, Takuan remained largely unaffected by his popularity and famed reputation. Known for his ascerbic wit and integrity of character, Takuan exerted himself to bring the spirit of Zen Buddhism to many and diverse aspects of Japanese culture, such as Japanese swordsmanship, gardening, Sumi-e, Shodo, and Sado. His collected writings total 6 volumes and over 100 published poems, including his best known treatise, The Unfettered Mind. His influence still permeates the work of many present-day exponents of Zen Buddhism and martial arts. He has also been credited with the invention of the yellow pickled Daikon radish that carries the same name, "Takuan." He is featured as a character in Vagabond, a manga series, which is largely based on Eiji Yoshikawa's equally successful book, Miyamoto Musashi.