During its fiftieth anniversary celebration, held on October 10, 2014, the Institute for Zen Studies awarded a Zen Bunka Distinguished Service Prize to Ōi Saidan Rōshi, Chief Abbot of Hōkō-ji in Shizuoka Prefecture, and a Zen Bunka Encouragement Prize to Rev. Katayama Shūkō, priest of Jifuku-ji in Miyagi Prefecture.
Ōi Saidan Rōshi: Ōi Rōshi was born in 1915, in Nishinomiya, Hyōgo Prefecture, and entered Tōfuku-ji Monastery in 1940 and eventually received transmission from Ienaga Itsudō Rōshi. He then taught at Hanazono University until 1960, when he assumed the abbacy of Manju-ji Monastery in Ōita Prefecture. He then returned to Kyoto and served as priest of the Myōshin-ji subtemple Tōkai-an from 1975 until 1990, when he was appointed chief abbot and Zen master of Hōkō-ji in Shizuoka Prefecture. Ōi Rōshi has been active as a Zen teacher in Germany and other parts of Europe, and has served for many years as president of the educational association Shinryūkai. At the age of nearly one hundred he is presently the oldest active Rinzai Zen master in Japan, continuing his life of study and meditation.
Katayama Shūkō: Rev. Katayama was born in the city of Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, in 1940. After graduating from Hanazono University in 1965 he trained in Zen at Kaisei-ji Monastery. Following this he returned to Kesennuma and assumed duties as assistant priest at his home temple, Jifuku-ji, where he offered classes to the local community and worked with disadvantaged children. In 2010 he founded “Kassapa,” a singing group exploring new approaches to teaching Buddhism through the use of music. Following the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, during which Jifuku-ji was severely damaged, Rev. Katayama and Kassapa have contributed to the Tohoku reconstruction efforts by serving as a voice for the affected areas. He is also vice-director of the NPO “Let’s Plant a Seaside Forest,” which is working toward restoration of Tohoku’s natural environment through tree planting and other activities.