Soyu Matsuoka was born in Japan in 1912, in Yamaguchi Prefecture near Hiroshima. His family has a history of Zen Buddhist priests dating back over six hundred years. After the he graduated from Komazawa University, he spent several years in Sojiji Monastery. He then was assigned a mission of establishing a temple at Karfuto, in the northern part of Japan. Matsuoka Roshi later received a special assignment to the United States.
Matsuoka came to the United States in the 1930s, and served as a Zen priest in the Los Angeles and San Francisco Zen Temples. He furthered his extensive graduate work at Columbia University with Dr. D. T. Suzuki, and spent time in the Japanese-American internment camps during World War II. In 1949, he founded the Zen Buddhist Temple of Chicago, the first Zen Temple in the Midwestern states. At the time, Matsuoka was a gondaikyoshi (the equivalent of a bishop) in Soto Zen Buddhism, responsible for Soto Zen activities across all of North America. Matsuoka’s dharma successor, Kongo Langlois Roshi, assumed direction of the center until he passed away on October 28th, 1999. The Zen Buddhist Temple of Chicago is the oldest, practicing Zen meditation center in the United States, and is still in operation.
Besides managing the temple in Chicago, the Reverend undertook many various activities. He conducted Zazen for the students of the Chicago Judo-Karate School, and was registered at the Chicago Central YMCA as a special instructor in Japanese culture and its relation to Zen Buddhism.
In addition, Matsuoka Roshi lectured intensively throughout the United States and abroad, including an eight month tour of Japan, which was sponsored by the American Embassy to Japan. On this tour he spoke about the "Unknown America" to groups all over Japan. In the United States, Matsuaka Roshi spoke to hundreds of religious, professional and social groups, and at martial arts schools and penitentiaries.
In 1970, Matsuoka Roshi left Chicago and in August of 1971 he established the Zen Center of Long Beach where he served as the superintendent until ill health forced his retirement in 1995. The Long Beach Temple was headquarters to Zen Centers in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, Everett (Washington) and Orange Country (California).
During his career, Matsuoka Roshi helped thousands of people find their first faltering steps on the Dharma path. He is registered in the book of national treasures of Japan. Matsuoka Roshi passed away in 1997.