News and updates from the Tenpyozan building project.
Meet Satoshi Niwa
By Chris Douthit, Tenpyozan Volunteer
Because of the importance of the Tenpyozan project, people have come from all over the world to help.  A skilled carpenter, Satoshi Niwa , traveled from Japan with his wife to assist with the creation of the temple compound.  He had learned about the project in 2014 from a friend who was a pupil of Masamichi Higo, the head carpenter at Tenpyozan.  Since then, he has spent six months at Tenpyozan, from March 2015 through September 2015, and after arriving in September of this year, he will stay until March of 2017.

As a student of traditional Japanese architecture, Mr. Niwa has worked on temples before, but when not working with the Tenpyozan project he is primarily focused on building homes in the traditional style with wood joinery, wood nails, and mud walls. He was drawn to the challenge of working on Tenpyozan because he was interested in encountering a “different face of traditional Japanese architecture and culture” as well as helping to preserve “original Zen culture.”

“always I work sincerely on building with tools, lumber and carpentry partners“ 

Mr. Niwa said he is enjoying his work on the project, but its sacred nature is not so different for him from a “regular” building because he sees all of his work as profoundly sacred: “Always I work sincerely on building with tools, lumber and carpentry partners.“ Mr. Niwa’s sincerity illuminates the importance of good, quality work and typifies the dedication to detail inherent in Zen practice.  

Tenpyozan Carpenters Speaks at Local High School
By Chris Douthit, Tenpyozan Volunteer  
A cultural meeting of the minds, hands, and hearts happened on Monday, December 5 at Ukiah High School in Ukiah, CA when Masamichi Higo and Satoshi Niwa, the traditional Japanese carpenters helping to build Tenpyozan, shared their expertise with one of the school’s woodshop classes.   Twenty students and a handful of faculty members, including Principal Gordon Oslund, came to Nick Pearson’s fifth period woodshop class to learn about the Tenpyozan building project and the techniques these master carpenters were using in its creation.
After a short introduction by Mr. Pearson, Mr. Higo explained his history and his practice of traditional Japanese carpentry.  His speech was translated by Kei Matsuda, President of the Tenpyozan Board. One point that Mr. Higo highlighted was the difficulty and precision of the work, which has taken him decades to master.  Later, the students experienced this for themselves when they tried their hands at a variety of Japanese carpentry techniques, including working with sample wood joints and using chisels and planes. Following Mr. Higo presentation, Mr. Niwa explained the layout of the temple and showed the students a slideshow featuring pictures of its progress.  He also described the wood, primarily hinoki (Japanese cedar), and the tools that he and Mr. Higo use on a daily basis.  The students were quite interested in the various practice joints that Mr. Niwa had made to illustrate the types of “puzzle” joinery which hold buildings together without nails or screws that are common in Japanese traditional carpentry.

"the wood’s delicious fragrance filled the air"
Following the presentations, Mr. Higo and Mr. Niwa walked students through using their tools.  Students found great satisfaction shaving incredibly thin ribbons of hinoki off a two-by-four using a hand plane as the wood’s delicious fragrance filled the air.  Principal Oslund, himself a skilled woodworker, literally rolled up his sleeves to get to work, making some especially fine delicate cuts with the plane. Students and faculty members peppered the carpenters with questions as they practiced and the atmosphere was light as the room filled with laughter.  When the bell rang to switch classes, a handful of students even stayed to get a few more questions in.  As the students left with smiles on their faces, everyone was heartened by the cultural exchange. 

"Mr. Niwa’s expertise and energy make him a wonderful teacher"
Following the presentations, the group from Tenpyozan toured the school facilities and had tea with their faculty tour guide.  There are tentative plans to take a group of interested students on a field trip to the temple site to see the work in action. Unfortunately, by the time the students will be able to visit, Mr. Higo will have returned to Japan, but Mr. Niwa's expertise and energy make him a wonderful teacher.  Mr. Matsuda was pleased with the visit and the prospect of the upcoming field trip, as they represent the first cultural exchanges of the sort that he wishes to see happen between Tenpyozan and local communities.  
D edicate a roof tile at Tenpyozan 
By Juntoku McCoy

There is still time to dedicate a roof-tile for Tenpyozan, and working together we can shelter the whole community. Traditional  kawara-gaki  or 'roof tile writing' allows you to share in the merit of building the temple. Your name, or the name of friends and loved ones can be inscribed on the back of a tile before they are placed on the roof this spring. The deadline is  approaching, so dedicate your tile here today!  
What is Tenpyozan?

Tenpyozan is an international Soto Zen training and retreat center being constructed 3 hours north of San Francisco, in Lake County, California, under the guidance of Rev. Gengo Akiba. Its mission is to support, encourage, and facilitate the international transmission of Soto Zen Buddhism by offering training for Soto Zen clergy and opportunities for formal practice, cultural and religious study, and community fellowship for both clergy and laity.

There's a place for you at Tenpyozan!

Tenpyozan's activities are mainly carried out by volunteers, and we'd love to have your participation. You might work on the land, write articles for our newsletter, lend your carpentry skills, help raise money or assist in other ways. For a current list of volunteer activities, please  contact us.