Ryokan 1758-1831 was born in the cold, isolated Chigo (now Nigata) province in the village of 出雲崎 Izumozaki on the Japan Sea. His father was a merchant and village headman, and a famous haiku poet, who himself chucked his business and family life and disappeared on the road.|
At the age of twelve Ryokan became a Buddhist monk at a local Zen temple, and then left to train twelve years with a master, cultivating as well the study of Chinese poetry and calligraphy. After the death of his master, Ryokan traveled as a pilgrim for five years. He returning to his native village at the age of fourty, and settled himself in an abandoned shack on Kugamisan. There he stayed for most of the remaining 20 years of his life.
Ryokan named his hermitage the Gogo-an. A 'gogo' is half a sho, the amount of rice necessary for daily sustenance. The word 'an' means hermitage.