Hashiri Bozu (the Running Priest) (走り坊主)
The Running Priest (November 20, 1872 – November 20, 1918) was a Buddhist priest known for his eccentricity of running around the streets of Kyoto City all day long in the Meiji and Taisho periods.
The real name of the Running Priest was Tsuneji NITTA, with his Buddhist name being Genkyo HATA, but he was commonly referred to 'Hashiri Bozu,' 'Hashiri Bosan' (the Running Priest) or 'Tsune-san.'
The birthplace of Genkyo was Sechigo (later incorporated in Kaizuka City), Kishima-mura, Sennan-gun, Osaka Prefecture. At age 18, he became a pupil at Dairen-ji Temple (Kyoto City) in Kyoto. The Dairen-ji Temple of the time was located at Gojo-dori sagaru, Butsuguya-cho, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto City, but in conjunction with the widening of Gojo-dori Street during World War II, it was relocated to Okazaki, Sakyo Ward.
It is said that at the time he began life at the temple, Genkyo was so small that he need only pay the child fare when riding the train; he was also said to be sickly. It is considered that his life reached a turning point when he began running around the city streets soliciting donations for the reconstruction of the Hondo (main building) and Kannon-do Hall (temple dedicated to Kannon) of the temple. Thereafter, after finishing the morning religious service, even if it was wet or blustery, Genkyo, wearing a priest's robe and carrying a soiled Zudabukuro (a bag for carrying such items as a text of a sutra or tableware, and which is hung from the neck when a priest travels) ran handing out the temple's ofuda (paper charms) in the streets every day. Genkyo was a regular visitor to the ghetto areas, unconcerned about giving his own money away and, although he received offerings from rich believers at times, his Zudabukuro was always empty.
Though no one knows when, people started to call him the 'present-day Ikkyu (a Rinzai sect monk of mid-Muromachi period).'
Additionally, leaving the temple before dawn once a month Genkyo climbed Mt. Kurama via Mt. Daimonji and Mt. Hiei, continuing on to make a pilgrimage to Atago-jinja Shrine (Kyoto City) on the top of Mt. Atago before returning to Dairen-ji Temple. Since Genkyo was such a great walker, there is an anecdote that a novice deliveryman came to ask him for pointers to follow his example.
It is said that Genkyo was a big eater and drinker, consuming 1.8 liters each of rice, sake and rice cakes a day and easily polishing off 50 rice cakes in zoni (a kind of vegetable soup with rice cakes) served on New Year's Day. The large red-lacquered bowl that Genkyo used for his daily meals was left intact. It is said, however, that Genkyo had no interest in women and whenever a woman made advances, as soon as he finished collecting offerings from believers and eating Otoki (a meal served at a Buddhist memorial service), he said 'Well, have a good day' and started to run at full speed again. Having a weakness for sake, there were some incidents where Genkyo ran into a post when drunk and bumped his nose, and that he was taken to a police box, but it is said that as soon as he was identified as the 'Running Priest,' he was immediately let go.
On November 20, 1918, Genkyo died from the influenza that swept throughout Japan. It is said that Genkyo never stopped drinking even after falling ill with influenza and continued to drink until he died.
In 1993, the life of Genkyo was covered by a TV show "Do Detectives! Scoop at Night" and in 1995, a picture book entitled the "Running Priest in Kyoto" (written by Yoshihisa AZUMA and illustrated by Kofu MUI), an adaptation based on the deeds performed by the real Running Priest, was published by Creo (ISBN 4906371795).