How Hunks, Rap, and Booze Might Save Buddhism in Japan

It can be difficult to get people excited about religion in Japan. No doubt, Japan’s culture and its religions are deeply intertwined, but the vast majority of Japanese people say that aren’t very religious.

With membership in religions across Japan in free fall, many are trying to make themselves more appealing to attract more followers. How do you get people excited about religion? Do you pull a Pope John Paul II and get some sweet-ass breakdancers to get the kids all excited about God?

Japanese Buddhists have found their weapon of choice: hunks. Not just any hunks, but hunky monks. Earlier this year, a book was released in Japan called 美坊主図鑑, or the Beautiful Monk Encyclopedia, and it’s gotten quite a few people excited about Buddhism.

Beautiful Monks

Think of Beautiful Monk Encyclopedia like a Tiger Beat for Buddhist monks — the Encyclopedia has pictures and little bios of all of the 40+ monks featured in the book. The Encyclopedia‘s first print run of 10,000 copies sold out quickly.

Hunk monksWhy would Buddhist monks put out what ultimately amount to be a book full of personal ads? Aren’t monks supposed to be chaste and all that? It turns out that unlike Catholic monks, some Buddhists monks are not only allowed to marry, but may need to marry in order to carry on the lineage.

Some monks have even turned to matchmaking parties to meet potential mates. It’s funny to me to imagine a bunch of Buddhist monks essentially speed dating. So tell me about yourself. Wait, you think that life is suffering too? We should go back to my place and talk about the Noble Truths.

Rapping Monks

Japanese Buddhist have other ways of luring in new faithful. For example, rapping monks. It seems to me that Buddhists are a little late to the party by just getting into rapping, but I suppose when your religion is thousands of years old, being a few decades late seems pretty insignificant.

Rapping monks certainly isn’t a widespread phenomenon, but a monk by the name Kansho Tagai took up the cause on behalf of Buddhism in Japan and began rapping and performing at his temple under the moniker “MC Happiness.”

Getting the young people back to religion is key to Buddhism’s survival,” MC Happiness has said, and his performances have done just that. More and more visitors and devotees have shown up to his temple since MC Happiness began rapping.

Boozin’ Buddhists

If rapping doesn’t appeal to you, then Japanese Buddhists know something that has universal appeal — booze.

As temples continue to close down across Japan, Buddhist monks are trying to get back to their roots. Once upon a time, Buddhist temples were the centers of towns; now, lay people don’t visit unless for a funeral or some other sort of traditional service.

For better or worse, bars are central locations for many communities around Japan (where everybody knows your name and all that). Vow’s Bar in Tokyo is trying to leverage the bar’s central place in modern life to better serve Buddhism.

Can Buddhism in Japan be Saved?

Will all of these efforts stem Buddhism’s decline in Japan, or will they simply be a bandage on a fatal wound? I suspect it’s the latter but for now, I’ll kick back a super dry beer or two with a rapping monk.

Read more: In Japan, Buddhism may be dying out, Have a Thing for Shaved Heads? This Cute Monk Guide May Be Up Your Alley, Japan’s monks turn to wife matchmaking parties, Japanese monks serve up alcohol and hip hop music to lure in followers, The Real Buddha Bar, Tended By Tokyo Monks

  • http://twitter.com/soriyaaaa ♔Soriya

    I’m a different Buddhist sect, but overall alcohol consumption is a no-no topic in Buddhism isn’t it? i vote the latter as well.

  • kitsuki

    surprising and pretty interesting
    i couldn’t stop laughing at the book of pretty monks
    and aljazeera reporting on a rapping monk totally caught me off guard.

    mm i think it’ll continue to decline which i find really sad as it is such an interesting part in japanese history and culture..
    though i can’t say im religious myself ;

  • V

    Depends on the school of Zen Buddhism.

    I’d also argue that the decline isn’t that substantial but the decline in revenue from private/corporate sponsors is great (especially due to the current climate). Buddhism and Shintoism is so deeply ingrained in Japanese society that a lot of religious events have largely become social events. Hatsumoude on New Years, for example, is more a “I’ll go because my friends/significant other/etc go” event.

  • subaru

    looks like Hashi been working hard

  • http://www.tofugu.com/ Hashi

    Always!

  • 古戸ヱリカ

    I don’t often seek enlightenment, but when I do, it’s through Rapanese Boozhist hunks.

  • http://mkaito.github.com Michishige Kaito

    As far as I’m concerned, most religions are a means of mass control that have lost their path over the centuries. Buddhism is actually an exception to the norm, focusing mostly on enlightenment, compassion, harmony, and inner peace. I think it would be a waste to lose something like this. But then again, the new generation tends to shun religion altogether, without bothering to learn that some religions don’t require you to stone your wife for wearing garments made of two different fabrics.

  • HatsuHazama

    Man, I was thinking about trying to be Buddhist before, as to me it makes more sense than my current religion, but I think you just persuaded me fully.

  • Susu

    There are so many variations of Budhdhism! It’s one thing in Thailand and another in Sri Lanka and in Japan, seems like it’s turning into somekind of a modern pop culture religion in Japan o.O
    I’ll go with Sri Lankan Budhdhism, that’s way better.

  • madbeanman

    I find the hunks book, very creepy. Maybe its an Irish Catholic child sex abuse thing. ( I know they are totally unrelated but nevertheless……….. I always imagine men of the cloth asexual)

  • DocJon

    I find that quite offensive to other Religions, you are pushing them all aside without any deeper research or knowledge. And Buddism has also been abused as an excuse to control the masses check your history it has no expection.

    enlightenment, compassion, harmony, and inner peace Allot of religions promote these principals too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001535919021 Heather Stewart

    I can’t stop laughing at the picture at the top of the article :D

  • http://mkaito.github.com Michishige Kaito

    Yes, I push them all aside, but not without knowledge or research. Why would you assume that I have no idea what I’m talking about? As long as I see people hate on others with no other reason than differing creeds, I see no reason to think otherwise.

    I intended no offense, and the text that made you take offense is quite bland in comparison to what I get to endure for “denying of our savior”. Not that I care much, but people tend to get quite upset, as the five downvotes show up there.

  • ‘sup

    Is it REALLY necessary to use this light hearted article as a platform to preach your stance on religion? I think it’s safe to say we have ALL heard this argument about a million times before, religous and non-religious readers alike, and most probably don’t really want to hear it again, so it’s only natural your comment gets downvoted.

    By the way – it’s not only religious people that “hate on others with no other reason than differing creeds”. BELIEVE me.

  • http://mkaito.github.com Michishige Kaito

    Well, please accept my apologies for wasting your time.

  • http://twitter.com/JessPachecoLaza Jesús Pacheco Lazart

    The question is how the message goes through: In the old way or in a contemporary manner. The noise is Samsara. The opening of the mind will be pure Nirvana.

  • Open Discussion

    Don’t worry, you are not the only one being made to become silent or gets criticized . In practically every single forums people trying to address this gets their thread banned , locked, or remove. It seems that openly addressing these issues is not possible these days.

    “Politicians and Media avoid the topic Islam, and critics of Islam are ignored at best, but far more often defamed, pathologized and criminalized. We need a factual discussion on Islam in both politics and the Media.”

    Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has made a homepage: Dialogue about the future — how do we want to live together. Here the Germans can give suggestions on what they think is most important for their country. There are currently 4,109 suggestions, that everybody can vote for. The suggestion with by far the most votes is “Open discussion on Islam”.

  • Open Discussion

    At another forum people were having an open discussion addressing the issue, then someone throws a tantrum and made a guilt trip ( as they usually do). Unfortunately, the moderator immediately took down the thread. And it is the only forum left where people can discuss it openly. But now even that is gone. This is an issue of its own.

  • http://mkaito.github.com Michishige Kaito

    Religion is hard to discuss with the involved parties, pretty much by design.

  • W_Ying

    I think the most important content of meditation is on
    quitting invalid happiness (Eating junk foods, drinking alcoholics, wearing
    de-symbiotic clothes … making TOO MUCH MONEY).

    All invalid happiness makes short time happiness, long
    time suffering, and finally human self-extinction.