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 Honorary President of the Chado Urasenke Tankokai Incorporated Nonprofit Organization, 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.