Tesshu’s life bridged the time between feudal and modern Japan. Tesshu held a position as a bodyguard for the last Togugawa Shogun. Tesshu even played a role in the transition of power. Then Tesshu became a tutor for the Emperor Meiji during the emperor’s early adulthood.
On one occasion the young emperor challenged Tesshu to a wrestling match. The emperor enjoyed sumo wrestling but he had acquired the inappropriate habit of challenging his aids to impromptu wrestling matches. On one occasion, following a bout of sake drinking, the emperor challenged Tesshu to wrestle. When Tesshu refused the challenge, whereupon the emperor tried to push and pull Tesshu, but the emperor found Tesshu to be immoveable. Then the emperor tried to strike Tesshu, but Tesshu moved slightly aside. The force of the emperor’s blow caused him to fall down, whereupon Tesshu pinned the emperor to the ground. The emperor’s other aids were furious with Tesshu and demanded that Tesshu apologize to the emperor. Tesshu asserted that he was in fact doing his duty and would commit suicide if the emperor requested, but he would not apologize. The emperor saw the wisdom of Tesshu’s way and gave up (temporarily) both wrestling and drinking. From then on Tesshu was one of the emperor’s most trusted advisors.
On another occasion, the emperor, observing how worn Tesshu’s clothing was, gave Tesshu some money to buy new clothes. Tesshu, however, had little regard for material possessions and gave the money to the numerous poor people who sought the hospitality of his household. The next time Tesshu appeared before the emperor, he was wearing the same old clothes.
Ao invés de dar um “carteiraço” (como é hábito no Brasil), o jovem Meiji aprendeu as lições de Tesshu Yamaoka. Não é à toa que ambos tenham se tornado tão famosos…