Kame Sennin and Kume Sennin – The Perverted Hermits

kame sennin bulma pervert dbz

kume sennin hermit painting dragon ball kame sennin

Every Dragon Ball fan is familiar with Kame Sennin, the perverted martial arts master. But how many of you have heard of Kume Sennin, the original perverted hermit?

Many of the characters seen in Dragon Ball were inspired by traditional or pop culture. It’s well known that Goku was inspired by the Monkey King from Journey to the West, as well as martial arts actor Jackie Chan.

But not all of the characters’ points of origin are as easy to see.

Today I will reveal for the first time the original inspiration for Kame Sennin.

You’ll learn who Kume Sennin is, hear his legend, and see how his transformation into a Japanese pop cultural figure was later emulated in cinema and then once again by Akira Toriyama in Dragon Ball.

You’ll also learn why this legend is so essential to the Dragon Ball story, and how it’s so well integrated that you may never have realized it.

Who is Kume Sennin?

kume sennin falls before washer woman

Who is Kume Sennin and how is he related to Kame Sennin?

First let me briefly describe the Japanese term, “Sennin.”

Sennin (仙人, or せんにん) translates as “Mountain Man,” but generally refers to hermits, sages, or immortals who live alone in the wilderness. The term comes directly from Chinese Daoism, where the equivalent Xianren (仙人) originates.

Daoists were known for leaving society behind, with all its illusions and false concepts, and turning to nature in order to unlock supernormal powers, become one with the Dao and attain immortality. They usually lived alone or at most with a few disciples.

Since they lived on mountains, rivers, and islands, “Xianren” was coined to describe these people. The Japanese inherited the Daoist and Buddhist concepts from China, and transliterated the term as “Sennin.”

Kume Sennin (久米仙人) was one of these Daoists who chose to live in the wilderness and cultivate his heart.

From the results of his cultivation he gained the ability to fly on a magic cloud, just like Kame Sennin’s Kinto’un in Dragon Ball, known in the American dub as the Flying Nimbus.

In traditional Chinese culture, people that could fly through the air, such as Buddhist or Daoist deities or powerful cultivators, were illustrated as having clouds underneath their feet. It was believed these people could travel quickly along the skies or mists, or teleport through space and time.

Sun Wukong’s magic cloud in Journey to the West (late 16th century) is based on these beliefs, and therefore so is Goku’s Kinto’un in Dragon Ball.

Everybody attributes Goku’s magic cloud to Sun Wukong. But it actually goes farther back than that. Much farther back.

As you may remember, Goku was not the first to own the Kinto’un.

Kume Sennin’s Legend

kume sennin watches women painting dragon ball kame sennin

Kume Sennin’s legend is recounted in classical works, such as Book 11:24 of Konjaku Monogotari (今昔物語集) a 12th century collection of Buddhist Parables, and Essay 8 of Tsuregurekusa (徒然草), a collection of thoughts on life by the Buddhist monk Yoshida Kenko (1283 – 1352).

The legend says that Kume was traveling on his cloud when he suddenly noticed a young woman near a river washing her clothes. He curiously watched the woman and unexpectedly caught a glimpse of her white leg under her raised kimono.

Kume’s mind became filled with desire and he immediately lost the ability to fly. Heavy with lustful thoughts, Kume fell to the earth and crashed in front of the lady!

Smitten, Kume chose to marry the maiden. They made love for many years and started a family. Yet one day Kume realized the error of his ways, repented and set off to achieve the ultimate goal of immortality all over again.

According to the legend, Kume worked hard to redeem himself, regained his powers, and built (or inspired the building of) Kumedera Temple (久米寺)in Kashiara City, Nara Prefecture, Japan. This temple dates back to the time of Prince Shotoku Taishi (574 – 622 AD) and still exists today.  This tells us that the Kume legend goes back at least 1,400 years.

Kume’s legend is well known in Japan, and his story has been considered part of pop culture for centuries, just like Journey to the West, the primary inspiration for Dragon Ball.

The Perverted Sennin’s

kume sennin scroll paintings

Kume Sennin was not the first Sennin to fall prey to temptations of the flesh. The lesson of his story was most likely inherited from China, along with other Buddho-Daoist beliefs.

Certain types of Sennin in China also had the dubious reputation of being lustful because of their infamously detailed sexual practices involving “Jade Girls.” The Sennin’s believed that through ritual sex acts these young virgins could help transform their “vital essence” into immortality elixirs.

Since this culture and concept of ‘perverted Sennin’ already existed, and because Kume’s legend existed for so long and was so popular in society, I surmise that his tale, along with similar stories, became synonymous with a certain type of Sennin in general. A type that is, shall we say, weak to women.

That means alongside the classical “8 Daoist Immortals” that were found in homes and worshipped with deep respect, there was also this type of Sennin, a lecherous old man who was always looking for his next young lady.

In other words, even if they had special magic powers and could perform amazing feats, this type of Sennin became a joke.

Kume Sennin’s legend was an iconic example that took root in Japanese folklore.

Thus these Sennin became common, formulaic characters.

The Cinema Influences Toriyama

dai tozoku the great bandit poster dragon ball z

By now you may be starting to see where this is headed in relation to Kame Sennin, but it gets even more interesting.

When Akira Toriyama decided to create Dragon Ball, did he receive all his inspiration for Kame Sennin’s character from this classic legend, or was there something else that played a role?

Consider for a moment that Toriyama was born in 1955 and was a huge fan of cinema, both domestic and abroad.

In 1963 a major cinematic feature was released in Japan called Dai Tozoku (大盗賊, The Great Bandit) known internationally as Samurai Pirate and in America as The Lost World of Sinbad.

Dai Tozoku was developed by Toho Co., Ltd., the makers of Godzilla (ゴジラ, Gojira) and other giant monster movies, Akira Kurosawa samurai films, and many Tokusatsu superhero films; All of which Toriyama has cited as inspirations for Dragon Ball. Toriyama grew up watching Toho’s movies, and they greatly affected his later work.

This particular action adventure film stars samurai film legend Toshiro Mifune as Sukeza, a brave man who fights to regain his lost treasure from pirates and defeat a corrupt chancellor trying to overthrow the king. Along the way he meets many companions, including bandits, a princess, and a nameless Sennin.

kume sennin dai tozoku dragon ball z kame sennin

This Sennin looks and acts shockingly similar to Kame Sennin in Dragon Ball. He’s an old Japanese man with no hair, a classic white beard and mustache, dressed in traditional Chinese hermit clothing and carrying a staff. The stereotypical Sennin outfit, actually. He also smokes from a long pipe and is missing several teeth.

When Sukeza encounters him for the first time, it’s on a beach, with the Sennin sitting in front of a giant clam shell. Sukeza says, “Who the hell are you?” The Sennin replies, “My ancestor was Kume Sennin! Haven’t you heard of him?!” Sukeza says, “Oh, it’s the man who fell to earth from the clouds when he saw a nude woman, isn’t it?” The Sennin smiles slightly and says, “That’s right. That’s the weakness that has run in my family for generations.”

kume sennin kame sennin dragon ball dai tozoku

The Sennin stands up to follow Sukeza, and as he crosses a bridge he sees a beautiful woman washing her clothes in a nearby river, copying the story of Kume Sennin. The camera zooms in on the woman’s cleavage and then cuts back to the widened eyes of the Sennin (just like a scene out of Dragon Ball). He becomes stiff as a board, facing the woman at a sharp 45 degree angle, as if his whole body were erect.

The Sennin suddenly screams as he realizes he’s fallen into the trap of lust. Sukeza runs back to help him, but the Sennin regains his composure and says, “Hey, don’t look at me with such contempt. It’s the blood of my ancestor at work.”

He tells Sukeza, “There are different classes of Sennin, you know. When my ancestor fell from the clouds tempted by a woman, he was demoted from the Heaven Sennin class to the Earth Sennin class. Since then, the Sennin of Kume family have devoted our lives to being promoted back to the original Heaven class.” He then sits down and crosses his legs in the full lotus meditation position. “To make up for the mistake I’ve just made, I need to train for three days.”

Like other Sennin’s, this Sennin has mighty powers. He has the ability to transform into a fly or even into other people, just like how Oolong and Puar can transform in Dragon Ball. Once, while transformed as a fly, he purposefully landed on top of a woman’s breasts in order to do some “research.” Keep that point in mind as we continue.

And to make the comparison to Dragon Ball even stronger, the Sennin fights against an evil old witch named Baba.

That’s right, Baba the Witch. She’s a fortune teller who performs magic and can fly, just like Kame Sennin’s older sister, Fortuneteller Baba (占いババ, Urunai Baba), the witch in Dragon Ball. Baba the Witch in Dai Tozoku looks somewhat similar to and even talks like Fortuneteller Baba. In Dragon Ball she’s made more comedic by wearing a stereotypical witches hat, but otherwise these two Baba the Witch characters are strikingly similar.

There are a lot of other similarities between Dragon Ball and Dai Tozoku, such as fighting, Sun Wukong’s giant red staff, and more, but that will have to wait for another post.

Suffice to say it’s my belief that Toriyama must have seen this movie as a child and was heavily influenced by it.

Akira Toriyama had always been into comics, fantasy, animation, giant monster movies and action adventure films. He grew up on these films and soaked up their influences like a sponge. Dai Tozoku was a blockbuster with well known stars and cutting edge special effects.

Since Toriyama was 11 years old at the time, it seems very likely that he would have seen this movie and then later used it as inspiration in his comics.

In this case, to create Kame Sennin.

How Was Kame Sennin Created?

kame sennin sea turtle hermit dbz

This is conjecture, but I can very easily imagine the following scenario when Toriyama was creating Kame Sennin.

Toriyama had read Journey to the West and wanted to create a similar story, as advised by his first editor, Kazuhiko Torishima. He had already turned Sun Wukong into Son Goku and now he needed a “master” character like Subodhi, who taught Sun Wukong the sacred arts, in order to teach Son Goku the higher level martial arts.

Just like Subodhi, he had to be a hermit who possessed mystical Buddho-Daoist powers. But because Toriyama is such a comedic fellow, he didn’t want him to be exactly like Subodhi, as that would be too boring. Subodhi was rather strict and unkind.

So instead he based him on Kume Sennin, the well known pop culture figure. By doing so, Toriyama would be free to make all the funny, perverted jokes that he loves so much.

But a direct clone of Kume would be boring as well, as he’d have to stick too close to the already established model. So he changed one letter and turned Kume to Kame.

The name made perfect sense. Daoist Sennin’s always had some type of unique characteristic or single animal familiar anyway, such as a fish, ox, toad, donkey or dragon, so basing him on turtle’s (亀, Kame) was a nice coincidence. Turtle’s also have great significance in East Asian culture, so it would serve as a rich source of ideas and symbols. For example, long life and immortality, which is what Kame Sennin exemplifies.

Like many of Toriyama’s creations, Kame Sennin fit within traditional culture while still being outlandish and funny.

It was also easier for his young audience to understand, since they could relate Kame Sennin with Kume Sennin.

Who is Kame Sennin?

kame sennin introduction master roshi dragon ball z

Let’s take a moment to look at Kame Sennin (亀仙人, the Turtle Hermit), otherwise known as Muten Roshi (武天老師, or Master Roshi) and see how he compares to Kume Sennin.

As we all know, Kame Sennin is the old perverted master of martial arts that lives on Kame Island in the Kame House. Like other Sennin’s, he lives alone except for his acquaintance, Turtle (海亀, Umigame), a slow yet honest talking sea turtle that comedically represents his Sennin familiar.

Kame Sennin is very much a cross cultural creation. He teaches the boys martial arts in a Zen Buddhist style of self comprehension amidst physical suffering. Meanwhile, he dresses like a Daoist Taiji master when fighting or teaching. He knows Taiji Chuan and Chinese boxing styles, and helps strengthen his disciples’ ability to use Ki (Qi). On top of that, he emulates Jackie Chan as Jackie Chun, a popular Chinese martial arts film star. He’s a mix of Buddhist, Daoist, Chinese and Japanese.

Kame Sennin is an immortal. It’s never explained exactly how he became immortal, but he is over 300 years old by the time Goku meets him as a child, and he never ages during the progression of the story.

Visually, like Kume Sennin, Kame Sennin is a bald man with a classic white beard and mustache, and carries a classic Daoist style Chinese staff. Like the Sennin from Dai Tozoku, he occasionally smokes from a long pipe and is missing several teeth.

Kame Sennin sometimes wears traditional Chinese clothing, but the first time he’s introduced he’s humorously wearing a modern tropical Islands shirt, shorts, flip flop sandals and a pair of sunglasses. Not the typical Sennin outfit you would expect a great master to be wearing!

This is Toriyama’s comedic style at work. A fusion of cultures across different time periods.

Let’s now turn our attention to the bigger links between the two.

Kame Sennin’s Magic Cloud

kame sennin kintoun dragon ball manga come to me kintoun

Just like Kume Sennin, Kame Sennin has a magic cloud, which he calls the Kinto’un (筋斗雲), and which shares similar Kanji to the one in Journey to the West, where it’s called the “Somersault Cloud.”

Kame Sennin is unable to ride the cloud, because like his predecessor Kume Sennin, his thoughts are impure and heavy, licentious and perverted.

In chapter 4 of the manga, Kame Sennin decides to thank Goku and Bulma for saving Turtle’s life (in the previous chapter), by giving Goku a gift.

He says, “COME TO ME, IMMORTAL PHOENIX!!!”

But nothing comes.

Turtle says, “Umm… the immortal phoenix died of food poisoning.”

Kame Sennin says, “Really?! Oh yeah, now that you mention it…”

Bulma asks, “It died even though it’s immortal…?”

Kame Sennin continues, “Hmmm… I was planning on summoning the immortal phoenix and granting you eternal life… Alright! Instead of that I’ll give you this…!”

“COME TO ME!!! KINTO’UN!!!”

Off in the distance a puffy cloud appears in the sky and with super speed zips toward the group. It stops on a dime in front of them.

Goku asks, “How do I eat it?” Kame Sennin responds, “Don’t eat my treasured cloud!!!”

Bulma says, “But why do YOU have this cloud? It has nothing to do with turtles…” He says, “It’s unbecoming of children to pay attention to such details…”

He tells Goku that it can be used to fly in the sky, but that “Only those with a pure heart can ride on Kinto’un!”

Kame Sennin tries to show him how to do it, jumping with both feet above the cloud. But he falls right through and hits the sand below!

“ARRRRGGGGH, m-my back!!!” Turtle asks, “A-are you alright? “Wh-what happened…?” Bulma points and laughs. Kame Sennin says, “Mumu… th-that’s strange…”

Goku jumps on top and becomes happy. “Yaaaay, I can ride it, I can ride it!!!” He then zooms around on the cloud at breakneck speeds, performing loop-de-loops in the air as if he already had years of experience.

goku kinto un dragon ball manga dbz

Since Kame Sennin can’t ride the cloud anyway, he offers it to Goku as a gift. But then Bulma asks for a gift too.

Kame Sennin says, “Unfortunately there is only one Kinto’un. But I can give you something else in its place…….. As long as… y… you… SHOW ME YOUR PANTIES FIRST!!”

Turtle screams at him, “HOW CAN A SENNIN LIKE YOU SAY SOMETHING LIKE THAT?!”

He responds, “WH-WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?! Even Sennin’s want to see some panties once in a while!!!”

Turtle says, “Now I know why you couldn’t ride Kinto’un…” Kame Sennin glares at him, “SILENCE!!”

Bulma is shy, but decides to lift up her dress and show her panties in exchange for another great gift. Unfortunately for her, she wasn’t aware that Goku had innocently taken the panties off of her while she slept, just out of curiosity to see if she had boy parts like he does.

That means Kame Sennin and Turtle got an eyeful of the goods!

bulma flashes kame sennin turtle hermit master roshi dragon ball manga

As a result, blood shoots out of Kame Sennin’s nose! Why? In manga this signifies that a man has an erection. The blood pressure becomes so high that it literally shoots out of their nose! It’s the same idea as the Sennin in Dai Tozoku standing erect at a 45 degree angle, but much more pronounced and visual.

In exchange, Bulma requests his Dragon Ball, the Three Star ball.

Kame Sennin gives it to her and then thinks to himself, “I should’ve brought my camera…”

He hops on to Turtle and rides back to his Island. He says to Turtle. “Wow, I still can’t believe what I saw today… I’m gonna live a long life!”

It’s as if Kame Sennin is implying his life is going to be extended because he saw Bulma’s naked body. Toriyama is basically presenting a child-like version of what the Daoist Sennin in China sought after, with their virgin “Jade Girls.” That is, the immortal elixir created by invigoration of their own “vital essence.”

Since the source of Kame Sennin’s immortality is never explained, perhaps this is how he became immortal in the first place!

And perhaps that is why he’s always looking for more pretty girls.

A Pure Heart and a Dirty Heart

kame sennin gropes videl boob dragon ball z

Why was Goku able to ride the Kinto’un, while Kame Sennin was not?

Goku was pure hearted and simple minded, so the cloud supported him.

The ultimate goal of Daoism is to return to your original, true self. To return to the simple, pure hearted nature that we have as children, what Daoists refer to as, “The Uncarved Block.” Goku was already at this state, so he was able to ride the cloud.

Kame Sennin obviously no longer met that standard.

Consider the following question. Why would Kame Sennin have a flying cloud that he can’t ride?

master roshi kame sennin magic cloud kintoun dragon ball manga bulma

To answer that, we also have to ask, how did Kame Sennin receive the Kinto’un in the first place?

It’s not explicitly shown, but it’s mentioned he got it from Karin, the Senbyō (仙猫, Hermit Cat or Immortal Cat) that lives in Karin Tower, the midway point between earth and Kami’s Lookout. Note that Senbyō and Sennin share the same first character, both referring to their hermit like nature.

Kame Sennin climbed up the impossibly tall Karin Tower, doing something that few people were ever strong enough to do. He also defeated Karin in combat and acquired the Super Holy Water. We are then led to believe that Karin gave it to him as a reward.

Why is this likely? Because in the original Dragon Ball series we see that Goku receives his own Kinto’un from Karin after performing the same feats. He had to replace the one that Kame Sennin gave him because it was killed by Piccolo Daimao’s child, Tambourine, a member of the Mazoku (Demon Clan).

Karin gave the Kinto’un to Goku because of his purity of heart and great inner qualities. That is the requirement for receiving it and also riding it.

Karin’s primary responsibility is to prevent the unworthy from going higher up and meeting Kami. The Kinto’un is unable to take a person higher than Karin’s Tower. To go higher, you need the Nyoibo staff that connects the top of Karin Tower to the bottom of Kami’s Lookout. But to even get the Kinto’un you first have to prove to Karin that you are pure of heart.

kame sennin teenager master roshi dragon ball

How did Kame Sennin ever get it? As a young man while training under Master Mutaito (alongside Tsuru Sennin (Crane Hermit)) he was already chasing after women and peeking at them through the bushes. Why would Karin give it to him if he was impure and couldn’t ride it?

The most likely reason is that at some point in his long life Kame Sennin climbed the tower, cultivated a pure heart and received the cloud from Karin. Karin tells Goku that it took Kame Sennin 3 whole years to defeat him. It took that much time to calm his mind.

Then later in his life he became licentious all over again, falling to the earth just like Kume Sennin!

Makes sense when you consider the inspiration for his character, doesn’t it? He cultivated well, received the blessings, then became lustful and lost his powers.

We never once get to see Kame Sennin ride the cloud he rightfully earned.

kame sennin reads pornography

But unlike Kume Sennin, Kame Sennin did not renew his cultivation. He stayed on his Island, living in comfort, watching the exercise girls on TV and reading pornographic magazines.

As a lonely old man unable to let go of his attachments, he continued to chase after every pretty girl he could find, for the rest of his life.

Forever alone.

Pervy Sage

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MswXUj1UoCc

Kume Sennin’s story represents a transition point between showing immortals in a respectful way and showing immortals in a lustful and comical way. I surmise that over time, perhaps centuries, this then created a formulaic concept of Daoist Sennin’s being dirty old men who live in the wilderness and chase after pretty girls.

Meanwhile, Japan had a long history of slightly risqué art, depicting men peeking at women from a distance, or seeing underneath their skirts.

Toriyama then took these two humorous concepts to the extreme (as he tends to do) and made Kame Sennin, a blatantly lecherous immortal.

Kame Sennin is now such an iconic character that I would argue he is one of the most well known manga and anime characters of all time. Definitely not the most popular, but certainly well known. He is the martial arts master of Son Goku, after all.

Kame Sennin represents all the perverted, dirty old men of the world who also happen to be martial arts masters!

Of course there may not be many of those in real life, but just as Kume Sennin was iconic enough to inspire the creation of Kame Sennin, Kame Sennin was iconic enough to inspire the creation of Gama Sennin.

Who is Gama Sennin?

jiraiya gama sennin naruto telescope dragon ball

Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball directly inspired manga author Masashi Kishimoto to create the Naruto series of manga, often described as the spiritual successor to Dragon Ball. In Naruto, he created a character just like Kame Sennin, known as Gama Sennin (蝦蟇仙人, The Frog Hermit), also known as Jiraiya. And the titular character Naruto is a lot like Goku.

Toriyama’s influence on Kishimoto was profound, as Kishimoto has even stated that, “Toriyama is like a god to me.”

Kishimito, just like Toriyama, mined traditional Japanese legends for inspiration of his characters, while also having modern influences.

Going back in time to traditional culture, the Gama Sennin in Naruto was directly inspired by a 10th century Sennin alchemist who learned the secrets of Immortality from a 3 legged toad. Like the Kume Sennin legend, Jiraiya is also the name of another Japanese legend, called Jiraiya Goketsu Monogatari (The Tale of the Gallant Jiraiya), a man who was a master shape shifting ninja associated with toads. He was one of three master ninja’s, the other two being Tsunade (associated with snails / slugs) and Orochimaru (associated with snakes). Together they made up the Sannin (Three Ninja’s). The giant toads and ninjutsu techniques in Naruto are a representation of his ancient background and Sennin powers.

In the modern sense, Naruto’s Jiraiya is directly inspired by Toriyama’s Kame Sennin, as a dirty old man who chases skirts, gropes women whenever he has the chance, and ogle’s girls from a distance through his telescope. Jiraiya takes Naruto on “research” expeditions, which involve hanging out at brothels, or peeking at women through the bushes, like Kame Sennin did as a young man, and like Kume Sennin’s descendent depicted in Dai Tozoku.

jiraiya pervert brothel women naruto dragon ball

Jiraiya’s licentious ways are so obvious that Naruto gives him the nickname Ero Sennin, translated as “Perverted Hermit,” or the shorter, “Pervy Sage.”

Pervy Sage is now a term all its own, and refers to these types of formulaic characters: The super powerful old man who can kick butt and dispense wisdom, but also has an inherent weakness for the ladies.

jiraiya gama sennin open eyes woman naruto dragon ball

These characters, Kame Sennin from Dragon Ball and Gama Sennin from Naruto, are regarded as two of the most iconic pervy sage’s in Japanese pop culture. They define the term.

After reading this article you can now see they had a predecessor in Kume Sennin. And the interplay between the three offers a fascinating look into ancient and modern Japanese culture.

A Popular Legend, Retold

jiraiya game sennin famous legend naruto dragon ball z

Why was Kume Sennin a popular tale for thousands of years? Because he was a mystical, yet perverted hermit who finds redemption.

Kame Sennin is also a super powerful man who has relatable flaws. Plus he’s endearingly funny.

Both of these perverted Sennin had this weakness of the heart and were relatable to the human condition.

Kume Sennin was an iconic Japanese Sennin figure, even though the majority of Sennin were inherited from the Chinese. And just like Journey to the West, where in Japan it became known as Saiyuki (西遊記) and received Japanese flavor, Kume Sennin was the Japanese representation of Chinese traditional culture and Buddho-Daoist beliefs. A cross cultural Chinese Daoist figure written about by Japanese Buddhist monks. That is to say, Chinese culture with Japanese characteristics.

Kame Sennin represents the same mix.

Let’s trace the path of inspiration. Ancient cultural beliefs in cultivation via Buddha and Dao led to Kume Sennin and Journey to the West. Then for Toriyama, Journey to the West’s Sun Wukong led to Son Goku, and its’ Subodhi figure led to Kume Sennin, which led to Kame Sennin. This then led Kishimoto to Toriyama’s Dragon Ball, which finally led to Naruto and Gama Sennin.

In all three cases the dirty old man became an iconic figure, and in all three stories the legend became popular among the masses.

The Kume Sennin story is extremely popular. The Kame Sennin story is extremely popular. The Gama Sennin story is extremely popular.

Maybe the secret to success is being a dirty old man.

Returning to the Way and Ascending

bulma flashes master roshi dragon ball manga

The Kume Sennin legend tells of a man who achieved great heights, stumbled, and then found the Way again.

His legend shows the dangers of lustfulness, revealing that it will weigh you down in illusion and prevent you from rising to higher levels. It also shows the moral importance of remaining virtuous and returning to your true calling.

Unfortunately Kame Sennin was unable to do this. He fell down and stayed down, basically giving up on his cultivation after attaining immortality. He was undisciplined and succumbed to comfort and pleasure. Routinely failing the test of lust, he stayed fixed at the same level for the rest of his life.

Goku on the other hand, never had this problem. This is why he surpassed his master so quickly. Simply by being a pure hearted little boy, he did what Kame Sennin could not.

In the end of Kume Sennin’s story, he leaves his wife and kids behind. He decides that his own cultivation is more important. Through this action he lives up to the standard of a dedicated cultivator of those times. He cut his ties to the mundane world and let go of his attachments.

As harsh as that may sound, from a traditional cultivation perspective it was the right thing to do for his own salvation. He had to let go of sentimentality for family in order to escape from the cycle of life and death. All attachments had to be eliminated.

Goku, just like Kume Sennin, flies on a magical cloud, has supernormal abilities, and fell into the mundane world as he was essentially pushed into marriage by Chi-Chi.

Yet Goku is ultimately more focused on his own cultivation than he is on his wife and children. He prefers to train and refine his abilities rather than play the role of a family man. He fulfills some of his familial responsibilities, but at his core it’s not what drives him and truly makes him happy.

I honestly think that Goku would be happier living alone as a hermit, maybe with a single disciple, just like each of his martial arts masters. Goku is not concerned with staying around family for sentimental reasons. He doesn’t have that attachment. Like a true Saiyan (a true cultivator), he just wants to train. He understands that this is the purpose of his life.

In fact, this is exactly how Dragon Ball Z ends, with Goku finding his one disciple, Uub, among all the people of the world. He tracks down the reincarnated Majin Buu, unlocks his incredible power, and then flies away with his new student, leaving all of his family and friends behind. He even gives Uub the Kinto’un, and Uub can ride it.

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Goku returns to the Way that makes him truly happy. He passes the magic cloud onto the next generation, and the two of them soar off into the distance to begin their training!



  • Dave

    I hold this truth to be self evident…That truly is the secret to success!

    • CSB

      I’d like to give a shoutout to the perviest perverted martial arts master that ever perved: Happosai!! Muten Roshi and Jiraiya are saints compared to ol’ mister panty raid.

      • http://www.thedaoofdragonball.com/blog/ derekpadula

        I have to plead ignorance and admit that I have never seen the Ranma 1/2 series. I had only played a couple of the video games back on the SNES. But I found this video profile on Happosai, and yes, that guy is definitely a dirty old man!

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGxcMAP3EpM

  • haad

    Hahahahaha ironically enough when i took the survey about reccomendations this came to mind but i figured : ”Actually don’t i know a decent amount about that?besides he’s making good articles, guys a genius, i should let him do what comes natural and the results will be good”, damn, you did the story i was thinking of suggesting, the only thing you missed was the staff he holds and actually you did hit that it just wasn’t enough for you to go into more detail, you hit things that i was completly oblivious to at the same time. Amazing article, nice to know there are higher level ”dragonball fan turned martial artist who understands the ways of philosophy, symbolism, and hidden references”, this was so beyond what i knew and i thought i was begining to know what there was to know about the subject, i guess thats what i get for thinking that ! I digress, great article, amazing.

    • http://www.thedaoofdragonball.com/blog/ derekpadula

      Wow, thanks, Haad! Very nice of you to say.

      I’ve found that there are a lot of people who were influenced by Dragon Ball to enter the martial arts. From there they entered into the Way and started studying philosophy, history and spirituality. Dragon Ball has all of those, so while they’re walking the path they repeatedly come back to Dragon Ball and find references to these ancient principles.

      Most importantly for me, I’m very glad that there are people like yourself who understand and appreciate what I’m writing. Even if there weren’t I would still be doing this, but it’s very nice all the same. :) Thanks again.

      Please let me know if you have other suggestions. I’m happy to write what people want to read.

  • http://thedragonballblog.blogspot.com Biba Sennin

    I definitely want to see Dai Tozoku now. It sounds awesome.

    Fantastic writing and well researched essay as usual, Derek. You make Dragon Ball more classy every time you put finger to key.

    • http://www.thedaoofdragonball.com/blog/ derekpadula

      Thanks, Biba! I really liked your recent "In Defense of Nappa" article. That helped me see Nappa in a whole new light. I just rewatched the Saiyan Saga and was thinking about what you said the entire time. Now I see that Nappa has more depth than is noticeable at first glance.

      Dai Tozoku was a good movie. The influences are pretty obvious when you’re familiar with the content in Dragon Ball. Seems to me that Toriyama must have watched it as a young boy. Of course nobody has ever mentioned this link before, so I’m going out on a limb. But I’m sure others will agree if they are able to see the film.

  • http://innagadadavida.blogspot.com/ Innagadadavida

    Awesome post! I cant wait to get the book! I hope this is in it.

    • http://www.thedaoofdragonball.com/blog/ derekpadula

      Thanks! Yes, the general ideas and arguments are in the book. But I don’t have enough space to dedicate to the subject like I do here. Have to keep it concise and leave room for other topics.

  • Pingback: Bukujutsu Explained | The Dao of Dragon Ball()

  • http://www.facebook.com/mariannekristelle.quintinio Marianne Kristelle Quintinio

    Excellent article! It’s nice to know that there are DBZ fans out there who loves to analyze the psychology and cultural influences of the characters as much as the series (even if it’s already ended almost a decade ago). I love how you connected Chinese and Japanese Sennin legends, and the Samurai Pirate film to Toriyama’s childhood influences. Finally, I had some insights how he grasped and cultivated his creativity to create a long-standing manga.

    The “Pervy Sage” section also reminded me a lot about Miroku, a lecherous monk created by Rumiko Takahashi for the “InuYasha” series. Ms. Takahashi is also the creator of Ranma 1/2; it’s as if Happosai and the character Miroku were almost based off of each other. Also, it seems as if perversity, sexual lust, wise hermit, and lonesome wilderness go hand in hand together to create more formulaic characters for aspiring manga artists/writers. Again, these character descriptions have stood the test of time to become (manga) character influences themselves.

    What strikes me the most about your article is when you mentioned how Goku’s detachment to family life made him go off to train Uub. You see, watching the last episode of the DBZ series as a kid didn’t made much that of a sense to me. Yet throughout the series, I came to understand that fighting is Goku’s life and Goku is the very definition of fighting. Until I read your article, I didn’t come to see the core reasons why he’d almost always put fighting and training in his list first than raising and staying with his family.

    To note these instances, when Goku was told to train under King Kai, he was simply elated. Is it because he’s been complacent during the first four years of his married life that he’s turned to this despite knowing of his recent death and the Saiyan threat? Likewise, after escaping Namek, he stayed a year with the Yardrats to explore the planet and learn their ways of living. This was his choice instead of compensating his one-year-absence to his family/friends after being killed with Raditz. If you ask me, he could have used that one year to live peacefully with them. From the in-universe perspective, Piccolo was becoming more of a father to Gohan than Goku at this point on. Moving forward, he also wished to stay in Other World than to be brought back to life, even though Cell has already been defeated for good. Instead of being a father and a husband for most of the series’ timeline, he chose to live with strangers in unknown places than stay home.

    The only exception to his absence as a father and a husband was the ten year time lapse that Mr. Toriyama did not go into detail much. After reading that portion of the manga and watching its counterpart episode, I was finally relieved. (I thought, “Finally. He. Can. Rest.”) Or so I thought. Yes he’s settled down, but that didn’t mean he did not continue to train. Now that Gohan’s bringing up a family of his own, perhaps he has taken Goten under his wing and brought him up to be a fighter. If he hadn’t had his second son to spar with, who knew where he could have flew off to next? Of course, these are all just plain assumptions based from what I’ve watched and read.

    So, I asked, what more could he truly want now that he’s achieved so much than any other? Why can’t he just retire and take a break from it all? No one could absolutely beat him; he’s the world’s strongest; no super human being could surpass him. Then I read your article that “this is the purpose of his life”. To think that such a non-stop-action/adventure-oriented guy would exist in a family-bounded culture and socially-oriented life is very rare. People like him may be at the brink of extinction because of the convenience that technology has to offer to ease communication.

    With that said, tha

    • http://thedaoofdragonball.com/ DerekPadula

      Thank you very much, Marianne. I especially agree with your statement that “He is one-of-a-kind in that he’s pure-hearted, good-willed, and true to his calling.” That is 100% accurate and the most important point. Goku is True.

      I will keep up the books, the blogs, and (hopefully) the inspiration!

      • Marianne

        Hi Derek,

        If it’s all right, can you please remove my comment on this page? Searching my name on Google lead me to this site as a link since it has my full name on it. Removing this comment is the best option I could think of because it has my exact identification on it. On the contrary, I am glad to repost this comment again without my full name on it, since I think it’s a good review of this article (I’ve copied this long comment, too, already.)

        As an enthusiastic reader of your blog, I adore this Web site as well as your current Dragon Ball projects.

        Thank you,

        Marianne

        P.S. Posting this request as a brief message to this article helps you find the specific comment I am referring on this page. You can remove this short request too after you read this.

  • Brackpepo

    Great post Mr.Padula!

    Finally I’ve gotten some rest from university, which I’ve decided to use on catching up on the articles I’ve missed on your side. This was, just like many of your previous articles, a truly fascinating and interesting piece to read.

    I like how you summarize it here; “Let’s trace the path of inspiration. Ancient cultural beliefs in cultivation via Buddha and Dao led to Kume Sennin and Journey to the West. Then for Toriyama, Journey to the West’s Sun Wukong led to Son Goku, and its’ Subodhi figure led to Kume Sennin, which led to Kame Sennin. This then led Kishimoto to Toriyama’s Dragon Ball, which finally led to Naruto and Gama Sennin.” It made me think of the the next possible “story”. Will there be a successor to Goku/Naruto and how much will it be influenced by its predecessor? Exciting! Makes you wonder about the circle of life, doesn’t it?

    Not only do you keep a straight red line from start to end but you also have the ability of making the reader to continue reading. Or maybe it’s just me being a DB fanatic and eating whatever information I stumble upon. Superb article! Keep at it.

    • http://thedaoofdragonball.com/ DerekPadula

      Thanks, Brackpepo. These cultural posts don’t receive as much love as the ones like, “Will there be a new Dragon Ball series?” But they take a lot more effort and time, so I’m glad you appreciate this article on Kame-sennin. He’s a great character that deserved to have his origin explained. And yes, who knows what the next generation of mangaka will create. I look forward to reading their masterpieces.

      I’m working hard on completing my next book in time for the holiday season, and it’s about “the culture of Dragon Ball,” filled with content just like this. Coming soon!

      • Brackpepo

        Well you have a strong follower in me, from Norway. These posts, and the ones you’ve listed under philosophy often strike me more.

        Yes, I meant to ask you about your new book as well. Being multicultural myself, I find it interesting learning about different cultures and their history. Looking very much forward to it.

  • Marianne Kristelle Quintinio

    Excellent article! It’s nice to know that there are DBZ fans out there who loves to analyze the psychology and cultural influences of the characters as much as the series (even if it’s already ended almost a decade ago). I love how you connected Chinese and Japanese Sennin legends, and the Samurai Pirate film to Toriyama’s childhood influences. Finally, I had some insights how he grasped and cultivated his creativity to create a long-standing manga.

    The “Pervy Sage” section also reminded me a lot about Miroku, a lecherous monk created by Rumiko Takahashi for the “InuYasha” series. Ms. Takahashi is also the creator of Ranma 1/2; it’s as if Happosai and the character Miroku were almost based off of each other. Also, it seems as if perversity, sexual lust, wise hermit, and lonesome wilderness go hand in hand together to create more formulaic characters for aspiring manga artists/writers. Again, these character descriptions have stood the test of time to become (manga) character influences themselves.

    What strikes me the most about your article is when you mentioned how Goku’s detachment to family life made him go off to train Uub. You see, watching the last episode of the DBZ series as a kid didn’t made much that of a sense to me. Yet throughout the series, I came to understand that fighting is Goku’s life and Goku is the very definition of fighting. Until I read your article, I didn’t come to see the core reasons why he’d almost always put fighting and training in his list first than raising and staying with his family.

    To note these instances, when Goku was told to train under King Kai, he was simply elated. Is it because he’s been complacent during the first four years of his married life that he’s turned to this despite knowing of his recent death and the Saiyan threat? Likewise, after escaping Namek, he stayed a year with the Yardrats to explore the planet and learn their ways of living. This was his choice instead of compensating his one-year-absence to his family/friends after being killed with Raditz. If you ask me, he could have used that one year to live peacefully with them. From the in-universe perspective, Piccolo was becoming more of a father to Gohan than Goku at this point on. Moving forward, he also wished to stay in Other World than to be brought back to life, even though Cell has already been defeated for good. Instead of being a father and a husband for most of the series’ timeline, he chose to live with strangers in unknown places than stay home.

    The only exception to his absence as a father and a husband was the ten year time lapse that Mr. Toriyama did not go into detail much. After reading that portion of the manga and watching its counterpart episode, I was finally relieved. (I thought, “Finally. He. Can. Rest.”) Or so I thought. Yes he’s settled down, but that didn’t mean he did not continue to train. Now that Gohan’s bringing up a family of his own, perhaps he has taken Goten under his wing and brought him up to be a fighter. If he hadn’t had his second son to spar with, who knew where he could have flew off to next? Of course, these are all just plain assumptions based from what I’ve watched and read.

    So, I asked, what more could he truly want now that he’s achieved so much than any other? Why can’t he just retire and take a break from it all? No one could absolutely beat him; he’s the world’s strongest; no super human being could surpass him. Then I read your article that “this is the purpose of his life”. He wouldn’t be easily told to “stay still” in one corner unlike his half-Saiyan sons; he’s a child at heart always looking forward onto the next adventures awaiting him. To think that such a non-stop-action/adventure-oriented guy would exist in a culture where job securities, retirements, and convenient lifestyles are relevant; he is one-of-a-kind in that he’s pure-hearted, good-willed, and true to his calling.

    You’ve re-invigorated a timeless character that’s immortal to everyone who knows Son Goku and his adventures. Keep up the books, the blogs, and the inspiration!

  • isb

    Wow! Wow! Wow!
    Truly appreciate your work!

    • http://thedaoofdragonball.com/ DerekPadula

      Thanks, isb. Glad you enjoyed reading it.