23 year old Norikiyo Satoh, an elite warrior who served the retired emperor, became a Buddhist monk and called himself Saigyo. His reasons for becoming a monk are not known.
However, it is said that the actual person was quite different from the rustic image one might have of a wandering Buddhist monk and hermit. He had connections with the highest authorities of his time, such as the retired emperor Suitoku, worked with Taira no Kiyomori as a warrior, met with the first Shogun, Minamoto no Yoritomo, and left us with many episodes from his time as a political coordinator, at which he worked even after becoming a monk.
He was, of course, also a famous poet. Since his death, his life has become legend in Japan. But where can we find the true Saigyo? Perhaps in the "suffering spiritual flower" of his poems.
Even in a person
most times indifferent
to things around him
they waken feelings
How wonderful, that
Should show me kindness;
And of all the numberless folk,
Thought I was free
of passion, so this melancholy
comes as surprise:
a woodcock shoots up from the marsh
Should I blame the moon
For bringing forth this sadness,
As if it pictured grief?
Lifting up my troubled face,