The story that follows is typical of the many legends that grew up around the Rinzai Zen monk Takuan Soho (1573–1645) in the period following his death. Most of these legends concern Takuan’s close relationship with the third Tokugawa shogun, Iemitsu, and with Iemitsu’s retainer, Yagyu Munenori.

The shogun Iemitsu was learning the art of quick movement from the sword master Yagyu Munenori. Munenori told the shogun that he couldn’t claim to have achieved true agility until on rainy days he could leap from the veranda onto the stepping stones in the garden and back again without getting wet. So Iemitsu, whenever he had free time, would practice assiduously to do this.

When Takuan was visiting the castle one rainy day and saw the shogun repeatedly leaping back and forth like this from the veranda, he asked, “Your Majesty, what are you doing?”

“Ah, Takuan!” Iemitsu greeted him. “Lately, I’ve been practicing quick movement, and I’m really making good progress. I can jump out in the rain like this and back again without even getting wet. That’s real agility, don’t you think?”

“Most impressive,” the aged master agreed. “Nevertheless, your movements are still nowhere near as fast as my own.”

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