Rev. Keido Chisan Koho Zenji

[In February 1995, Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett received a cordial letter from her nephew-in-the-Dharma, Rev. Chisho Misawa Chief Priest of Raigaku-ji, one of Koho Zenji’s family of temples in Japan. Enclosed with the letter was a copy of the Raigaku-ji newsletter for August 1993 which celebrated the annual memorial service for the former Chief Priest Koho Chisan Zenji, and two other Chief Priests of Raigakuji, one being Rev. Chisho Misawa’s father. The newsletter, and accompanying material, included biographies of Koho Chisan Zenji, Rev. Master’s Transmission Master, which we are pleased to publish in this our 25th Anniversary Issue. We thank Rev. Misawa for his kindness and good wishes, and pray that he and his temple will continue to prosper. We cannot give thanks enough for Rev. Koho Zenji’s deep and compassionate teaching which we have received through his devoted disciple and Dharma-heir, Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett. May all of Koho Zenji’s Dharma-descendants remain true to the Source as Rev. Master has done, thereby enriching our great monastic family.]

Raigaku-ji Newsletter, No. 4 August 1, 1993

The Annual Memorial Service

Great Priest Keido Chisan Koho Zenji.
Enno Shido Zenji.
Thirty-second Head of Raigaku-ji, Temple Restorer.
Foremost Great Teacher of Scriptures.
Eighteenth Abbot Daihonzan Soji-ji.
The Twenty-seventh Anniversary of His Demise.

A formal photographic portrait of Koho Zenji

Keido Chisan Koho Zenji

Rev. Koho Zenji was born on August 16, 1879, in the Echizen District of Toyama, Toyama Prefecture. In 1889 he became ordained under Koho Hakugun, Chief Priest of Eikoji in Hakui, Ishikawa Prefecture. He attended Soto-shu First Middle School (now called Tadani School) and graduated from Soto-shu University (now, Komazawa University). He did his Chief Juniorship under the Abbot of Chokoku-ji in Tokyo’s Minato District. He was Transmitted by Koho Hakugun, who adopted him as his son and gave him the family name of Koho.

He served as Chief Priest at Sempuku-ji in Tateyama, Chiba Prefecture, and from 1907 to 1957 served at Raigakuji for fifty years. During this time he held additional posts at Eiko-ji in Ishikawa Prefecture, at Fukuju-in in Tokyo’s Taito District, and at Saijo-ji in Minami-Ashigara, Kanagawa Prefecture. In 1957 he became Enno Shido Zenji, Eighteenth Abbot of Daihonzan Soji-ji.

Also he served successively as Director of Komazawa University Library, Principal of Tadani High School, Assistant Prior and Prior of Daihonzan Soji-ji, and Head of the Financial Section of the Soto Church’s Department of Sectarian Affairs. While at Raigaku-ji he erected such structures as the Main Hall, the Founder’s Shrine, the Temple’s Mountain Gate, and the Bell Tower. His demise came on November 1, 1967, at the age of 89. The Gako Zenrin (Goose Lake Monastery) written on the Mountain Gate and the Shian Jizo Son (In Veneration of Jizo, Helper of Childbirth) written on the entrance side of the Kshtigarba Shrine are in his hand. Among the twenty disciples that he Transmitted are Misawa Chiyu and Iwamoto Chido, who inherited Raigakuji as the thirty-third and thirty-fourth Heads respectively. Zenshu Shi (A History of the Zen Tradition) is foremost among his many published works. He devoted his energies to erecting such buildings as the Main Hall, Library, and Monks’ Hall at Saijo-ji, and the Gate to the Great Ancestral Hall (Main Hall) at Daihonzan Soji-ji.

Brief Biography Of Koho Chisan Zenji:

Foremost Great Teacher of Scriptures.
Former Abbot of the Soto Church’s Daihonzan Soji-ji.
Imperially conferred the title of Enno Shido Zenji.
Former Head of Soji Gakuen School.
Former Advocate General of the Main Temple’s Social Services Department.

1879   Born on August 16 in Toyama Prefecture.
1892   Ordained by Koho Hakugun, Chief Priest of Eiko-ji, Kashima County, Ishikawa Prefecture. (Age 11)
1901   Transmitted under Koho Hakugun, Chief Priest of Eiko-ji, Ishikawa Prefecture.
1904   Graduated from Soto-shu University. A senior monk at Daihonzan Soji-ji.
1905   Appointed Chief Priest of Sempuku-ji, Awa County, Chiba Prefecture.
1907   Established the first summer training retreat at Sempuku-ji, Awa County, Chiba Prefecture.
1907   Chief Priest, Raigaku-ji, Suwa County, Nagano Prefecture. (Age 29)
1909   Associate Shike. Military Chaplain.
1915   Head Teacher, Soto-shu First Middle School.
1918   Principal, Tokyo Setagaya Middle School.
1919   Received confirmation of his kensho from Sugimoto Dosan Roshi [Soto].
1919   Received certification from Roshi Nantenbo Hakugaikutsu-chu Nakahara Toshu Roshi [Rinzai].
1925   Scarlet robe.
1926   Head of the Soto Church’s Financial Section. Chief Priest of Eiko-ji, Ishikawa Prefecture.
1927   Assistant Prior, Daihonzan Soji-ji.
1936   Prior, Daihonzan Soji-ji. (Age 58)
1937   Great 600th Anniversary Service for Emperor Godaigo. (Prior)
1941   Assistant Great Teacher of Scriptures. Advisor (komon) to Daihonzan Soji-ji.
1942   Great Teacher. (Age 64)
1943   Member, Council on Church Functions, Daihonzan Soji-ji.
1946   Chief Priest, Saijo-ji, Ashigara-kami County, Kanagawa Prefecture.
1947   Assistant Abbot, Daihonzan Soji-ji. Assistant Foremost Great Teacher of Scriptures.
1952   Member, Ministry of Education Council.
1957   In October, Abbot of the Soto Church’s Daihonzan Soji-ji. Foremost Great Teacher of Scriptures. Was Imperially conferred the title of Enno Shido Zenji.
1960   In December, Goodwill Ambassador, Commemoration of One Hundred Years of Friendship between Japan and America. Tour of Europe and America. (Age 82)
1965   Great 600th Anniversary Service for the Second Ancestor and National Teacher.
1967   November 1, his demise at Daihonzan Soji-ji (Age 89)


Precepts Master connected with Raigaku-ji and Eiko-ji. Fifteen ceremonies.


Zenshu Shi (A History of the Zen Tradition).
Kanchu Denkoroku (Annotated Transmission of the Light).
Soto-shu Shui Gaisetsu (Outline of the Tenets of the Soto Church).
Nihon Zenshu Shiyo (A Concise History of the Japanese Zen Tradition).

Building Projects:

Raigaku-ji: Main Hall, Founder’s Shrine, stone gate, Monastery signpost, roadway to Temple, stone stairway, Mountain Gate, great bell tower, etc.
Zuijo-ji: Monks’ Hall, Main Hall, Study Hall, among others.
Daihonzan Soji-ji: Great Ancestral Hall, mausoleum, wall for Imperial Messenger’s Gate, Original Nature Tower, Frolicking Dragon House, Pine-supported Hermitage, Byakuji Mansion, Tsurumi Heights, Mountain Gate (completed Spring, 1969).
Soji Gakuen: Middle School, High School ferro-concrete school building, library, dormitory, swimming pool, athletic field, six-storey building for university among others.
Social Services Section: Monastery kindergarten, nursery school, Soji Association Hall, five-storey all-purpose hospital, among others.

[Trans. Rev. Hubert Nearman, O.B.C.]

[In November 1984, two monks of the Order visited Malaysia and Japan; in Japan they attended a symposium on the future of Zen temples in the West and were also invited to Fukuju-in Temple whose chief priest, Rev. Koryu Noguchi, is Rev. Master’s nephew-in-the-Dharma. At that time, Rev. Koryu officially presented Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett, Abbess of Shasta Abbey and Head of the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives, with some of Koho Zenji’s ashes and a certificate of authenticity. Rev. Koho Zenji’s relics were formally enshrined in the Founder’s Shrine of Shasta Abbey on Sunday, April 21, 1985.

Five years later, Rev. Koryu Noguchi presented Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett and Shasta Abbey with three exquisitely carved statues that had been enshrined in his temple, Fukuju-in, one of Keido Chisan Zenji’s family of temples in Japan. We are pleased to publish again Rev. Koryu’s accompanying letter in this special issue of the Journal.]

August 30, l989

Dear Roshi Jiyu,

…This year is the twenty-second anniversary of the passing of Koho Zenji, and there are plans to hold memorial services at Soji-ji, Daiyuzan, Raigaku-ji in Suwa, Eiko-ji, and other temples. At my temple, we plan to hold services in conjunction with Soji-ji in October.

In connection with this occasion (it is as if our late master’s happiness is coming through from the other world with regard to your activity), we have sent you three statues (carved from camphor wood) that were enshrined in this temple: the Buddha, Great Master Bodhidharma, and Daigen Shuri Bodhisattva. Please install them in your sanctuary….

It was indeed a great honor to receive these statues from our Dharma relatives in Japan. We thank Rev. Koryu for his generosity and kindness and send him our best wishes. Bodhidharma and Daigen Shuri were enshrined behind the main altar on Founder’s Day, November 1st, 1989— Bodhidharma to the left and Daigen Shuri to the right. The statue of Shakyamuni Buddha (see frontispiece) has been placed for the time being in the Founder’s Shrine until our Arhat Hall has been built where it will be permanently enshrined.

Here is a link to an introduction to Soto Zen for westerners, in pdf form, written by Koho Zenji.

Reprinted from the Journal Of The Order Of Buddhist Contemplatives, Vol. 10, numbers 3 and 4,1995.