The Monk Who Ate Radishes

There was once a monk, in ancient Japan, who only ate radishes. Everyone mocked him, and called him ‘The Radish Monk’, but he continued eating radishes. He said that radishes gave him everything he needed, and that he’d tried other foods, but ‘Radishes are enough for me.’

One day, while the monk was out, two robbers, who had been waiting in the bushes outside his house, ran in to ransack his house. As they approached the veranda two ferocious warriors emerged, clad in full shogun armour, screaming and sawing the air with their swords. The robbers ran off, terrified, past the monk who, just then, was returning.

‘What’s this? What happened?’ asked the monk to the warriors who were now standing guard over his front gate.

‘We are your radishes,’ they said, ‘and we are returning your loyalty to us.’

Whereupon they turned back into radishes.


(from Essays in Idleness by Yoshida Kenkō)