Banzan was born in Kyoto to a samurai family without a specific allegiance to any feudal lord. In his youth, at the age of sixteen, he entered the service of Ikeda Mitsumasa (1609-1682) the Confucian minded daimyo of the Okayama domain (Bizen) who was celebrated as one of the so called enlightened rulers of his generation.
But Banzan left MitsumasaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s service four years later. Beginning in the autumn of 1641, he studied for some six months under the direct supervision of Nakae Toju (1608-1648) in Omi (Shiga) and became his most noted student. Kumazawa re-entered MitsumasaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s service in 1645 and became a chief minister and launched a successful reform program. His increasing fame bred resentment, however, and he was attacked by conservatives who eventually forced him to resign in 1656. He then taught and wrote. From 1660 onwards he used the name Banzan, an artistÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s name derived from the Chinese reading of the two kanji for Shigeyama (not far from Bizen, today Okayama Prefecture), and the town where he lived.
A letter to a fellow student:
I have sent 1000. Tomorrow Toju [=Nakae Toju 1608-1648] will start his teaching earlier than usual, and thus you should also arrive early. - On the 20th day, signed Kumazawa Ryoukai. - Alas, the name of the letterÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s addressee remains unread.
Paper size: 15.2 x 37 cm (6 x 14 1/2 in.)
Mounting: 105 x 50 cm (41 1/2 x 19 1/2 in.)