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Japan’s Buddhist Temples keeping up with the times using DJs, apps, video games, booze and more


While religions of all stripes have something to offer in terms of support and advice, they also share a common detriment: they’re all really, really old. While age brings with it wisdom and experience, if religion can’t relate to modern society it runs the risk of getting left behind.

To help prevent this, several monks across Japan have been adopting new technology and trends or have tried simply reaching out to people differently, in less orthodox and more human ways.

■ Higher Tech Attainment

Walking around and looking at the masses of people with eyes looked on their smartphone it’s hard to ignore the pull of digital media. Higan Temple has been at the forefront of tapping into cyberspace to expose the masses to Buddhism.

What started as a blog chronicling Kosuke Matsumoto’s journey to becoming a monk has blossomed into a virtual online temple. Now several Buddhists and monks contribute articles offering their viewpoints on business, parenting, food, and more. The monks also answer questions asked via Twitter.


There is a small English section too where Mr. Matsumoto occasionally writes articles. The temple also released an app for iPhone and Android called Undo to assist in meditation.

Another website called Tera Koya Buddha works as a calendar of events for Buddhist related activities running the gamut from yoga classes to jazz festivals. Buddhist Temples have also be stepping up their game in the entertainment field as well.


■ Sutra Hero

One way to get recognition is to put out an interesting and entertaining product for people to latch onto. A few of our readers are likely familiar with Ryoho Temple, otherwise known as Moe Temple for its liberal use of moe characters all around the grounds.

A while back we reported on their video game Sutra Master, a rhythm game using traditional Buddhist “instruments”, characters and symbols.

Well, it seems as if Moe Temple was just getting started in the video game business. Now they have released an RPG game for use on iPhone and Android called Welcome to Ryoho Temple [Free Training Yokai Card Game]. The game is a strategy-based card game which uses moe versions of about 1,000 different traditional Japanese creatures such as tengu and akaoni.

■ Parties

Another way to lure people with technology is to throw a kick-ass party. Earlier this year Gokokuji Temple held the Tibet Festival Tokyo with the participation of Tibetan monks. At the festival the temporary beauty of a sand mandala being made in-person could be seen.

However, after sunset the beauty of the temple gets kicked up a notch thanks to some projection mapping. Here’s a time lapse video of the event.

Also earlier this year was Kohgen 2013, which held various religious events at four temples and shrines in Gunma Prefecture. In particular the Joko Temple event was a feast for the senses. Inside the main hall of the temple, incense was lit to mellow the audiences sense of smell, vegetarian food was served to tingle taste buds and a DJ and live band played along with cryptic projections on the wall. Perhaps next year the musical stylings Tariki Echo could be worked in.


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