Tesshu Zen-kai

A Zen dojo for laypeople affiliated with the Tenryu-ji school of the Rinzai sect, established in 1943 at the former residence of Tesshu Yamaoka.

Outline of the Society

Kohoin is a temple in Nakano Ward, Tokyo, built on the site of the former residence of Tesshu Yamaoka, a shogunate vassal and sword fighter at the end of the Edo period.

The Zen dojo belonging to the temple is a Zazen dojo that offers a place to practise Zazen for working people who live busy lives in the city.

Kohoin and Tesshu Yamaoka

The main temple, Kohoin, Mt. Chinku is a Zen temple founded by Tesshu Yamaoka and opened by the Great Monk Seisetsu Seki, the head priest of the Tenryuji School. It was built in 1943 on the site of Tesshu Yamaoka's residence in Nakano, Tokyo. The name "Koho-in" comes from Tesshu's real name, "Takayuki (Koho)".


This is the site where Tesshu Yamaoka used to hold frequent meetings with Saigo Nanshu, Katsu Kaishu, and others to discuss national affairs. After Tesshu moved to Yotsuya in the Meiji era (1868-1912), the villa was presented to the Fushimi princely household. 

The Emperor Taisho visited the site several times during his childhood.


In 1942, an old man in Osaka who had acquired this land learned of the legend and donated a corner of the central area surrounding the pond to Zen Master Seisetsu Seki, then president of the Tenryuji School of Buddhism.


When the second abbot, the late Master Omori Sogen the Elder, was assigned to the temple in 1947, the site had been reduced in size due to air raids and postwar conflicts. There was only a shoin, a small building that remained undamaged.

With the legacy of Tesshu and the Zen style of the Great Monk Seisetsu Seki, Master Oomori had a strong belief that nothing else was needed to make the temple a place of peace and Zen. With this, Tesshu Zen-kai was established as an institute for Zen Buddhism. It widely promotes Kendo, Zen, and calligraphy. Since its establishment, Kohoin has been making efforts to promote the spread of koji-Zen.


This dojo is not a so-called "specialized dojo" where ordained monks practitioners practice.

Rather, it is a place where laypeople can engage in zazen and work in order to "look at and study themselves. Master Omori also devoted himself to teaching swordsmanship or Kendo and calligraphy as a means of Zen practice. His wife also taught the tea ceremony.

The school has provided a place to practice "Zen with Sword," "Zen with Calligraphy," and "Zen with Tea.

Since then, Tesshu's legacy and the Zen style of Master Seisetsu have been handed down from generation to generation. The fact that Kohoin, which has no parishioners, has been maintained for nearly 80 years is due to the contributions and donations of many predecessors, and is a very rare and precious thing.


In today's increasingly complex and confusing world, we believe it is very important to continue to provide a place of relief for those who are troubled and suffering.


We believe we must keep this precious place alive for the future.

Activities of the Tesshu Zen Society

 The Kohoin and Tesshu Zen-kai dojo organises a variety of activities to spread the Zen style of Teki-sui to the public, including weekly zazen meetings, Friday night zazen, monthly sesshin, calligraphy, kendo (Jikishin Kage-ryu) , tea ceremony and 'zazen and Dharma talk sessions' for beginners.


 At Kohoin, the current master, Kakizakai Genryo Roshi, holds monthly 'Zazen and Dharma Talk Meetings'. For beginners who may be hesitant, the meeting provides an opportunity to experience the basics of zazen and to come into contact with the essence of Zen through Dharma talks based on texts such as 'Hannya Shingyo Hogo' by Zen master Ikkyu Soujun. Some of the participants have gone on to full-fledged zazen training (sansen).


"Kendo and Zen"  the footsteps of Master Omori Sogen

 The main hall of the Tesshu-kai Zen Dojo is a boarded-up kendo hall. It was here that Omori Roshi once taught the sword of the Jiki-shin Kage-ryu style. His teachings were passed on to his disciples. The dojo is still the place where Jiki-shin Kage-ryu (Kendo) is practised today.


 In Kendo practice, the two participants play the roles of the uchi-dachi (instructor) and the shi-dachi (student). The uchi-dachi always initiates the technique, while the shi-dachi shadows his or her movement. The shi-dachi never moves before or after the uchi-dachi, but rather in perfect synchronicity concentrating on each movement. In this way the shi-dachi learns to lose themself, become a shadow of their opponent, and in the end is able to win the exchange.

  We are aiming to grasp the "Now" as the essence of Zen.

"Calligraphy and Zen"

 It is said that a person's character is expressed in their writing. When you pick up a brush and write a character, each stroke is not just a line. From the beginning to the end of the stroke, each moment, each dot is an accumulation. The result is a line. Concentrate on that one moment, that one point, and work on the calligraphy so as not to lose your energy. It is the same as Zen breathing.


"Tea and zen"

 Kohoin has a tea ceremony room called 'Ro-an'. Here, tea ceremony practice is conducted as part of Zen training. The aim is not just to perform the tea ceremony neatly according to etiquette, but to practise the movements of the tea ceremony, point by point, scoop by scoop, lid by lid, concentrating the mind on the moment, and not dwelling on the moment, so that one can grasp the 'present moment'.