The Urasenke Grand Masters

Iemoto SEN Soshitsu XVI

SEN Soshitsu XVI, Zabosai, was born on June 7, 1956, as the first-born son of SEN Soshitsu XV, Hounsai. The name he was given at birth is Masayuki. He is a graduate of the Department of Letters at Doshisha University, located in Kyoto. In 1982, on his twenty-sixth birthday, he was ordained as a Buddhist clergyman by Zen master NAKAMURA Sojun, chief abbot and master at the monks' training hall of Daitokuji temple, and received from him the Buddhist name Zabosai. On October 28th of that year, he was confirmed as heir apparent (wakasosho) of the Urasenke grand master (iemoto). Later, he undertook training under Zen master MORINAGA Soko of Myoshinji temple, and he has now become the resident abbot of Kyoshin'an, a temple of the Myoshinji branch of the Rinzai Zen sect. He officially succeeded his father as lord of the Konnichian estate, and became the 16th-generation grand master of the Urasenke chado tradition, on the 22nd of December, 2002. As the Urasenke grand master, he acquired the hereditary name Soshitsu.

Grand Master SEN Soshitsu XVI exercises authority within the Urasenke organization as chairman of the Urasenke Foundation (Ippan Zaidan Hojin Konnichian), chairman of the Urasenke Tankokai Federation (Ippan Shadan Hojin Chado Urasenke Tankokai), and president of the Urasenke Gakuen Professional College of Chado (Urasenke Gakuen Chado Senmon Gakko). Through his roles in these posts, he is striving to nurture able chado followers and teachers. In the field of education, he also holds a professorial post at the Kyoto University of Art and Design, teaching in the Department of Historical Heritage, and is a visiting colleague at Nankai University and Beijing Foreign Studies University, China. Among his various other current positions outside the Urasenke organization, he is a trustee of the Japan Society for Psychological Research on Emotion, and a trustee of the Kyoto Prefectural International Center.

His personal enjoyments include writing, and several book-length literary works of his have been published. He is married and has three children. (From the Urasenke Konnichian Website)

SEN Genshitsu (Soshitsu XV)

SEN Genshitsu was Urasenke iemoto for thirty-eight years, up to the end of 2002, when he transferred the iemoto position and the hereditary name Soshitsu that goes with it to his elder son, Zabosai. At that time, he changed his own name from Soshitsu to Genshitsu, and he became referred to by the title Daisosho, signifying his status as the once grand master.

He was born in Kyoto on April 19, 1923, as the first son of the 14th-generation Urasenke iemoto, Mugensai. His given name was Masaoki. After serving in the airforce division of the Japanese navy during WWII, and then completing his temporarily interrupted university education at Doshisha University, Kyoto, graduating from the Faculty of Economics, he took Buddhist vows under GOTO Zuigan, chief abbot of Daitokuji temple, and received the Buddhist names Hounsai Genshu Soko. In 1950, he was confirmed as heir apparent of Mugensai, and thus became referred to by the title Wakasosho. He made his first trip abroad that year, to Hawaii and the USA, and since then he has made more than three hundred trips abroad and been to more than sixty countries. He lived in Hawaii in 1952, during which time he lectured at and also took courses at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, beginning his long and dedicated association with that university. In 1953, soon after the Urasenke membership organization, Tankokai, was authorized as a non-profit legal body, he became its president. Upon Mugensai's death in 1964, he succeeded as the 15th-generation Urasenke iemoto, Hounsai. He holds a Ph.D. from Nankai University, China, awarded to him in 1991 for his successful defense of his thesis concerning the influence of the Cha Jing, by Lu Yu (8th c.) on the development of Japan's chado culture, and a Litt.D. from Chung-Ang University, Korea, awarded to him in 2008.

Among his many international contributions in the field of academics, he endowed the Soshitsu Sen XV Distinguished Professorship of Traditional Japanese History and Culture as well as the Dr. Soshitsu Sen International Way of Tea Center within the Center for Japanese Studies at the University of Hawaii, and the Soshitsu Sen XV Distinguished Lectures on Japanese Culture at the Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture at Columbia University, New York.

He is Honorary Consul-General of Peru in Kyoto, and in the past, served as Honorary Consul of Portugal in Kyoto (1969-1982) and Honorary Consul-General of Italy in Kyoto (1982-93). He has been a dynamic member of the Rotary International, formerly serving as R.I. Director (1988-90) and Rotary Foundation Trustee (1998-2002). He is widely known as a global-minded promoter both of the culture embraced by the Way of Tea and of World Peace. In 1997, he was awarded the Order of Culture by the Emperor of Japan.

Currently, within the Urasenke organization, he is President of the Urasenke Tankokai Federation, and President of the Junior College of the Urasenke Way of Tea at the Tianjin University of Commerce. Among his many positions outside the Urasenke organization, he is UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador (appointment by UNESCO, March 2012), Japan-U.N. Goodwill Ambassador (Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, September 2005), and Japan Tourism Goodwill Ambassador (Japan Tourism Agency, April 2010), as well as President of the Rotary Japan Foundation, President of the United Nations Association of Japan, President of the Kyoto City International Foundation, Director of the Kyoto Municipal General Center for Lifelong Learning, and President of the Japan Equestrian Federation.

Dr. Genshitsu Sen (Soshitsu XV) performs tea for the memory of the fallen sailors

entombed at the Arizona Memorial and for world peace at Pearl Harbor, Summer 2011

(Photograph courtesy of Chado Urasenke Tankokai Hawaii).