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2-12-1 Tenjin Nagaokakyo-shi Kyoto-prefecture, JAPAN

Introduction of Nagaoka Zen Juku


Nagaoka Zen Juku was founded by Katsujiro Iwai (1863-1935), who was also the founder of the Osaka trading company IWAI & Co (today Sojitz Corporation) in 1939.

Iwai was a well-known entrepreneur who established IWAI & Co., and its worldwide business operations who went on to create various other companies that eventually formed the group. Iwai also made social contributions by spending large amounts of his private assets to help the poor and to fund the education of students.

Iwai sought the source of the human spirit in Zen, and reconstructed a private villa into a Zen training hall. He received instruction from a Zen priest, practiced Zen meditation, and opened the training hall to working people and students. After World War 1, Iwai planned to establish a full-scale Zen Juku (=tutoring school) with the purpose of training people who could guide society, which was seen to be morally decaying at that time. Iwai wrote a prospectus in 1935 on the establishment of such a Juku, but passed away shortly after at the age of 73. Using the inheritance allocated in Iwai’s will, Nagaoka Zen Juku was established in 1936, with his second son Yujiro as chairperson. On a large property acquired in Nagaokakyo City, in the western suburb of Kyoto, related facilities such as a Zen meditation hall, lecture hall, and student dormitory were constructed, along with a sophisticated garden. The opening ceremony of Nagaoka Zen Juku was held in the spring of 1939.

Nagaoka Zen Juku is a foundation to develop the characters of students and working people, who should display leadership in society, rather than to train Zen priests. This was the first attempt of its kind in Japan.

Nagaoka Zen Juku is financed from revenues derived from the management of the foundation’s assets, donations from member companies participating in Saishokai*, and other sources.

At Nagaoka Zen Juku, one’s nationality is never questioned and the following projects are underway:
First, to assist the education of university students, a private room is provided to each student. Except for the time allotted to Zen meditation and cleaning in the morning and evening, each student is free to study and attend school. There is no fee for meals, and students are free to pursue their own paths after graduation.
Second, responding to the enthusiasm of company executives and employees participating in Saishokai, as well as general working people, Zen meditation and lectures are provided on both a regular and irregular basis.

Successive directors of Nagaoka Zen Juku have included unique priests who were outstanding for their knowledge and virtue. Many students and working adults, after receiving enthusiastic instruction, have left the Juku to assume active roles in various fields in society.

* Saishokai is a company group consisting of nine companies, founded in 1953 to recognize the virtues of the founder of Nagaoka Zen Juku, Katsujiro Iwai, and to deepen cooperation and friendly relationships among member companies (Daicel Corporation, Fuji Film Corporation, Japan Bridge Corporation, Kansai Paint Corporation, NHK Spring Corporation, Nisshin Steel Corporation, Toabo Corporation, Tokuyama Corporation and Sojitz Corporation).

Presentations of Roshi


Born 1943, trained at Shoukoku-ji (相国寺), Kennin-ji (建仁時) and Nagaoka Zen Juku (長岡禅塾), Kyoto. Buddhist heir of Nagaoka Zen Juku’s third Head Master Asai Gisen. Professor emeritus, Soai University, Guest Professor, Northeastern University (China)

Publications: Wisdom of Zen Monks (禅に親しむ), Phenomenology of Self-consciousness (自覚の現象学), Zen and the Kyoto School (禅と京都哲学), The Story of Nagaoka Zen Juku (長岡禅塾物語), Nishida Philosophy and the Dynamic Character(西田哲学の動的性格について) and more.

Main Foreign visitors in the Past

  • Alan Watts, Philosopher and Writer on Eastern Philosophy
  • Friedrich August von Hayek, Economist and Philosopher
  • Richard Baker, Soto Zen Master
  • Gary Snyder, Poet

Rules of Nagaoka Zen Juku

1.General Rules

  • Be polite and respect Roshi (Master).
  • Follow elder students, especially Jikijitu (head student).
  • In the Zen world there are many rules which seem not to be logical. Obey these obediently. (Often there is no explanation of what they mean.)
  • Try to be careful and mindful of yourself regarding Zen Juku life.

If these rules are not followed, it is possible to be excommunicated.

2.Year Schedule

8th Dec - 31st MarSeikan
1st Apr - 30th JunSeichu
1st Jul - 7th Jul (subject to change) Sesshin
8th Jul - 31st AugSeikan
1st Sep - 30th NovSeichu
1st Dec - 7th DecSesshin
  • The season of practice with evening Zazen.
  • Students have Zazen practice on weekday evenings.
  • Students are not allowed to stay out overnight.
  • The season of practice without evening Zazen.
  • Students do evening Zazen voluntarily.
  • Students can receive permission for travelling etc., principally, less than 10 days and in consultation with the Roshi.
  • Harder one week practice.
  • For one week, students cannot go outside of the Zen Juku.
  • Students practice Zazen and Samu (working) all day.
  • Communication and reading are not permitted.
  • Approximate schedule: 04:00-22:00.

3.Daily Schedule

  • 5:00- 6:00: Zazen in Zendo (practice hall)
  • 6:00-6:20: Small Samu
  • 6:30: Shukuza (breakfast)
  • 6:30-8:30: Daily Samu
  • 8:30-17:30: Free
  • 17:30: Yakuseki (dinner)
  • 17:40-19:40: Free
  • 19:40- 21.00: Zazen (Seichu) [In Seikan season: Free time]
    *Tuesdays: “Teisho” (Lecture) instead of Zazen
  • 5:00- 6:00: Zazen in Zendo
  • 6:00-6:20: small Samu
  • 6:30: Shukuza
  • 6:30-8:30: Daily Samu
  • 8:30-17:30: Free
  • 17:30: Yakuseki
  • 17:40-21:00: Free time
  • 6:00: Wake up
  • 6:00-6:30: Small Samu
  • 6:20-6:30: Shukuza
  • 6:30-12:00: Samu
  • 12:00-21:00: Free time
    **The main entrance is locked at 21:00. In case you cannot come home by 21:00, the Jikijitu is to be informed ahead.

4.Samu (Working practice):

In Zen, Samu is as important as Zazen.
Small Samu (6:00-6:20)
  • Place: Clean Zendo or Rryosha (student residence)
  • Dress: Kimono and Obi (No Hakama)
Daily Samu (6:30-8:30)
  • Place: Gate, Shower rooms, Guest Rooms, Roshi’s House, Entrance, Garden
  • Dress: Free
Larger Samu (6:30-12:00)
  • Students must have time for this Samu.
  • Roshi tells students what to do for Samu during the day.

5.Toban (Student work)

Yakuseki Toban:
  • Make dinner for all students.
  • Return to the Zen Juku by 15:00, to start work until 17:30
  • Yakuseki Toban Work :
    • Clean Outside
    • Clean Floors
    • Cook Dinner
  • Students will be Yakuseki Toban 1-2 times a week.
  • Yakuseki Toban is decided on Sunday mornings.
Toban of the Week:
  • Make breakfast, open the doors in the morning and lock at night during the week
  • Students rotate weekly

6.Student Life:

  • You do not need to say “Good Morning” and other greetings to Roshis and students
  • When speaking to others, say: “Onegaishimasu”. Usual position of the hands is fingers curled and placed on the breast (Shashutoukyo).
  • Don’t interrupt the meditation practices of others (Students are doing concentration practice outside of Zazen too)
  • Don't make loud sounds in the Zen Juku
  • Yakuseki is at 17:30 (You do not always have to have Yakuseki in the Zen Juku, but students should have Yakuseki here as often as possible for cooking practice and preparation for evening Zazen. If you have schoolwork, you need not have Yakuseki at the Zen Juku or you can have Yakuseki later than 17:30.)
  • Food is free, but it is eaten in the Zen manner at Zen Juku
  • There is no preparation of Saiza (lunch) at Zen Juku. You can use the kitchen from 12:00 to 13:00.
  • Taking a bath:
    • Men: Use the common bathroom (Don’t change water during the evening, as is the Japanese traditional way)
    • Women: Use the shower room. (Men and Women can use both rooms if they want)
    • Students can take a bath until 21:00.
    • After using the shower room, wipe the shower clean
    • It is not very good, but if you use the common bath room after 21:00 we must not use the lights
  • Kitchen
    • After using the kitchen, remove all water/food waste in the kitchen
  • When leaving Zen Juku say “Itte mairi masu” loudly in front of “Saian”, Kansei Roshi’s house
  • When returning say “Tadaima kaeri mashita”
  • School life precedes work at the Zen Juku because Nagaoka Zen Juku is for students of Universities or Colleges, not for a professional monastery. But when you will be absent from Samu or Zazen, you need to tell Roshi and the Jikijitu beforehand. Students are prohibited from working part-time.

If you are not satisfied at the Zen Juku, go to a professional monastery.

7.Zen Juku Necessities:

  • Application (this form is provided by the Zen Juku (see example))
  • Resume (send your resume to:
  • Health Certificate
  • University or College Diploma or Transcript (copy)
  • Copy of the certificate of alien registration
  • Kimono, Hakama, Obi (dark colors, like blue or black, nothing loud)
  • Futon (Japanese mattress and quilt)
  • Geta (Japanese traditional wooden shoes)
  • Hashi (Chopsticks)
  • Samu wear and shoes (Free; your own clothes for work)

Application Requirements

  1. Status: Exchange student at a Japanese University or Japanese Language/Culture Institute
  2. Visa: Acquisition of a Student Visa
  3. Age: Under 30 years old
  4. Period of stay at Nagaoka Zen Juku: Minimum 6 months
  5. Japanese Language Proficiency: Minimal functional proficiency
  6. Commitment to follow the rules of Nagaoka Zen Juku (in particular do twice a week cleaning duties starting from 3pm and participate twice a year at Sesshin )

Application Procedure

  1. All applicants must read the information on our website thoroughly before applying. Submission of an application indicates that you have read and understood the life of Zen Juku in full and agree to comply with the policies and procedures outlines.
  2. Fill out and submit the Application Form and resume by email.
  3. Regardless of the results, applicants will be notified by email from Zen Juku. Notification will be no earlier than one week in advance.
  4. Approved applicants will receive an invitation to submit the following documents:
    1. Photocopy of Certificate of Eligibility
    2. Photocopy of your passport
    3. Photocopy of the letter of acceptance from your Japanese university, language/culture institute
    4. Health Certificate
    5. University Diploma or Transcript

Application Form