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).