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Ikkyū-san is a Japanese historical comedy anime series that aired in Japan from October 15, 1975 to June 28, 1982. Produced by Toei Animation, the show is based on the recorded early life of Zen Buddhist monk Ikkyū during his stay at Ankoku-ji Temple.

The show's premise is that Ikkyū-san was born in 1394 in Kyoto. He was the son of Emperor Go-Komatsu and Mrs. Iyo. Ikkyu and his mother had to leave the palace because of the political problems arising in Japan. When he was 5 years old, he was separated from his mother and was sent to be ordained at Ankoku-ji Temple. Known for being mischievous and a bit of a troublemaker, but also extremely smart, Ikkyu-san constantly thinks of new ways to outwit his frustrated teachers, helping others at the same time. Ikkyū-san also relies on his intelligence and wit to solve all types of problems, from distraught farmers to greedy merchants.


  • Thanks to the TV series, the real Ikkyū is a folk hero to Japanese children due to his portrayal of being a mischievous child and always out-smarting his teachers and even the Shogun. The real Ikkyū was legendary for his wit and was also an accomplished poet, calligrapher, and a rebellious monk who relentlessly attacked the hypocrisy of the then-corrupt Zen establishment. After leaving the monastery he continued to practise Zen while living the life of the common people: eating meat, drinking sake, and having sexual relations with women. He did all this openly, criticising ‘hypocritical monks’ and arguing that the common life lived in the moment was the true way to enlightenment.
  • The wit of the real Ikkyū was legendary and he is the subject of many witty stories. These stories flourished during the Edo Period, about 200 years after his death. Some were confused with stories of other monks and some were invented, but they all reflected Ikkyū’s wit and humanity. It was these stories that inspired the creation of the Ikkyū-san television show.
  • The real Ikkyū was among the few Zen priests who addressed the subject of sexuality from a religious context, and he stood out for arguing that enlightenment was deepened by partaking in love and sex, including lovers, prostitutes and monastic homosexuality. He believed that sex was part of the human nature, and therefore purer than hypocritical organizations and worldly pursuits.
  • A running gag of Ikkyū-san is that whenever Ikkyū-san is trying to think of a plan, he sits in a lotus position, wets his two index fingers, and rotates them above his head.

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