The Matsugaoka Bunko came into existence through the efforts of Dr. Daisetz Teitarō Suzuki (1870-1966) and a group of his supporters. In 1945, these culminated in the construction of the library on the Matsugaoka hillside, Kita-Kamakura, which opened in February of the following year after having been granted official status as a foundation. It may be seen as the fulfillment of the dream of Sōen Shaku (1857-1919), Suzuki's master, who conceived the idea to establish a centre for Buddhist studies.

Visitors first pass through the Tōkei-ji temple gate, and after proceeding a short distance down the secluded lane pass by the marker for the library on their right. The adjoining gate will not open to those who feel no affinity for the wisdom of the Way. Beyond, wild camellia bloom every spring, their elegant red petals highlighting the tranquility of the Matsugaoka hill. Within this floral sanctuary stands the Bunko, the repository of some seventy thousand learned volumes, one of the most extensive collections of Buddhist texts in Japan. The Zen collection alone consists of ten thousand works, and the non-Japanese-language books some nine thousand, including ample selections in Sanskrit, English, and many other European languages.

The collection, the core of which comprises works collected over a lifetime by Suzuki and his wife, Beatrice Lane (1878-1939), covers not only the varieties of Indian, Chinese, and Japanese Buddhism, but many other religions and topics of interest to the humanities as well. While no efforts aimed specifically at acquiring rare materials have been made, the present collection contains many significant Japanese works, among them those from the library donated by Mitsuo Ishii (1880-1966), governor of the Bank of Japan, such as the Xinbian Fofa daming lu (The Great Light of Buddha-dharma, 1229) treasured by Shōichi Kokushi (1202-80) and the authentic manuscript of the Rinzairoku shō (The Record of Lin-chi) of Takuan (1573-1645). These items have been respectively designated an Important Cultural Property and a Valued Artistic Treasure by the Japanese government.