Kobun grew up in his father's Soto Zen temple, Jokoji, in Kamo, Japan. (The temple had been administered by his family for generations). His father died when Kobun was eight years old. He was ordained at age 12 and was adopted two years later by Chino Roshi. After further studies, he became a trainer of monks at Eiheiji Temple. He was invited by Suzuki Roshi to come to the U.S. to help Suzuki Roshi establish Tassajara Monastery in the Carmel Valley. He arrived in California in 1967 and settled permanently in the U.S. in 1970. He taught students in California, New Mexico, Austria, and in many other places until his death in 2002. (He drowned trying to save his five-year-old daughter, who also drowned). At the time of his death, he held the World Wisdom Chair at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado.