lifestyle

New style of temple: The monks bar

30 Comments
By Ryohei Iseki

A new style of Buddhism has become the talk of the town in Japan. Once sheltered away in their temples and shrines, monks now are coming out more than ever to listen to people’s worries. They also occasionally open up temples and shrines as places to hold speed-dating events. None of these practices, it hardly needs adding, are traditional roles of monks.

Reflecting this trend, a book called “Good-looking Monks” was published by Kosaido in February 2012. As this title suggests, the book introduces handsome monks in a light that shows monks are anything but distant figures. More than 15,000 copies were sold in the first three months, which illustrates growing interest among the public.

The book targets female readers because in recent years women care more about men’s looks than their personalities when it comes to judging men. You can never overestimate the acuteness of the words by Junko Takada, the editor of the book, who aims to attract female readers by introducing good-looking monks.

In the past, monks were prohibited from appearing on TV and magazines. Temples and shrines functioned as communities, where locals could gather easily. There used to be a strong connection between people and religion in their daily lives. Nowadays, religion has become less relevant. This was why Takada wanted to publish “Good-looking Monks” -- she wanted to revive this connection.

Yoshinobu Fujioka, one of the monks introduced in the book, is the owner of the monks bar located in Shinjuku, Tokyo. When we entered the bar, the scent of Japanese traditional incense sticks and two smiling monk servants welcomed us. It reminded us of the peaceful atmosphere of a temple. This bar, which can have twenty people at the most, was busy for a weekday. There were many different kinds of customers, ranging from businessmen to female college students.

So why did he choose to open a bar? “I wanted to reach out to a lot of people and listen to their concerns,” Fujioka answers. His decision has not come without criticism from conservatives. They say that the bar might lead to the loss of purity in Buddhism.

“This is a new style of temple,” he counters, adding that he wanted to give people a chance to experience Buddhism and let them feel that Buddhism has a close relation with their life.

In the end, we asked him about how religion is perceived by the Japanese. “Japanese people can accept different kinds of religions. Religious practitioners should not force people to believe in one particular set of religious values. Instead we should use religions as a tool to support people,” Fujioka says.

The writer is a Keio University student and organizer of the English Newspaper club which is called MitaCampus. Their motto is delivering stories and expressing opinions to the international community from Japanese students' point of view.

© Japan Today

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.


30 Comments
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Nice article reflecting the tolerance and open-mindedness of Buddhism I find so attractive.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

But it is a totally tamed Buddhism that has presented no opposition to the political system for centuries. In fact, it was co-opted as a tool of power. And even now it remains largely silent on various issues, from the death penalty and suicide to mindless consumption and environmental destruction.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

And therein lies its beauty, Moonraker.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

The monks in Europe have brewed some damn good beer for hundreds of years. Maybe these guys should good it a try.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Yes, if you like the status quo and are in power and have a disdain for life, human rights and the ruled, ben4short, then it is indeed a "beautiful" buddhism in Japan, quietly shunted aside and making money from death.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Good to see these Buddhist monks embracing the bottle! As paulinusa points out, the catholic monks of Belgium brew and sell some of the best beers on earth! Maybe - just maybe - alcohol can be the answer to bring people together in peace.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Moonie, your bitter, over-the-top dogmatic world is one I'm gladly not a part of. In fact, your insistence that every institution, every organization, indeed, every human being is obligated to speak out against the injustices you mention, in our supercharged-politicized world, borders on fascism and is more dangerous than the silence of Buddhism you so despise. I will care and speak out against the death penalty (for example) ONLY if I care about it and care to speak out against it, not because you or anyone else says I have to. And whether I choose to speak out or not has absolutely nothing to do with being a Buddhist or any other "religion," though I hesitate to call Buddhism a religion.

"A disdain for life," eh? LOL I'd suggest a little reading about Buddhism, a subject you obviously know nothing about.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Religion has never made sense to me while I'm sober. Maybe I'll understand it better after a skinful.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Cool! Bring it on ..

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Well, I think from the accusative way you write, ben4short, that you might not be a Buddhist either, and your understanding of fascism is a bit suspect too, but I never said anywhere I despised Buddhism (nor really could I be accused of knowing nothing about it), only the way it has turned out in Japan. It is designed to marginalise through solipsism and is indifferent to suffering because it has been co-opted by power from the beginning through the Edo period until the present. I won't assume you know nothing of the history but just look at the reality of Japanese "Buddhism" now. It is irrelevant. Hence these rather desperate measures to regain some tiny relevance as barmen and "ikemen."

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

this is a total distortion of Budhdhism where Alcohol use it not recommended at all.These "monks" should be expelled from their robes...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@wipeout

Not sure why anyone wouldn't call Buddhism a religion.

With the possible exception of Soka Gakkai, whom I dislike, Buddhism to me, wipeout, is a highly personal nontheistic way of coming to know and love the wholeness of the Self, in all its messy manifestations. It is a way of life, a way of non-judgmentally understanding and accepting the world as it is. And, curiously enough, one can be an atheist, as I am, and still call himself a Buddhist. It is because of this highly personal developmental process of the Self that I objected to Moonraker's political call to arms; his misguided turbo-charged PC notion that it is incumbent on every institution or group of people to speak out against global warming, for example. If enough people can find self-love and compassion through Buddhism (or any other means, for that matter), then social problems will begin to improve. But to criticize Buddhism for not officially coming out against the death penalty, the way the Vatican, for example, comes out against birth control, is simply naive, and misdirected anger.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

wipeout, if you do any reading at all of philosophy, psychology or theology you will notice that Self is often capitalized, so my usage is neither original nor a gimmick.

As for the notion that an atheist can be a Buddhist, I kind of expected that to fly way over your head. As a nontheistic practice free of fairy tales and a GOD, kindly explain to me why this strikes you as nonsense.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

"Religious practitioners should not force people to believe in one particular set of religious values. Instead we should use religions as a tool to support people,”

Tolerance is all the rage these days, but seriously, if your beliefs have no connection to reality, if they are not true, if you think it really doesn't matter what people believe, then why would anyone want to adopt your beliefs?

Basically what he is saying is that religion is just another form of self-help psychology. Not true, but maybe useful as therapy for some people.

I guess I don't understand how something that is not true can really act as a therapy for anyone, but maybe that's just me.

I do agree though that force should not be used to get people to believe in anything, whether a religion or not.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Exactly the narrow, traditional, small-picture explanation I expected, wipeout, so perhaps I should thank you for not disappointing me. Atheists may be "non-religious" (your phrase, not mine) but they certainly are NOT non-spiritual. And since meditation/spirituality is at the heart of Zen Buddhism, there is no paradox or contradiction at all.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I've always been interested in the word 'spirituality'. I'd love to hear a definition which doesn't involve wooly claptrap.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I've always been interested in the word 'spirituality'. I'd love to hear a definition which doesn't involve wooly claptrap.

I would imagine that if you took that to the bar, you might get the following in response:

"Tell me who you are. really. Who is this "I" who would love to hear a definition of spirituality?"

0 ( +0 / -0 )

ben4short

I am always wondering why the buddhists are reluctant to call buddhism as a religion. IMHO as soon as there is a ceremonial cult - and especially the cult of a person, Buddha - this is a religion in its wide sense or ... a sect.

Mentioning philosophy or the same as a justification is a non-sense. For instance I have never seen gatherings of thousands of Freud fans, nor millions of statues of him.

Thus, as an outsider, I perceive buddhism as a religion. It does not mean I have got any problem with that.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Mentioning philosophy or the same as a justification is a non-sense. For instance I have never seen gatherings of thousands of Freud fans, nor millions of statues of him.

Probably because statues represent repressed infantile desires. Anyway, Confucius and Lao Tzu have millions of people who prescribe to what they taught. Freud does too, actually.

I am always wondering why the buddhists are reluctant to call buddhism as a religion

I think people want to distinguish that believing in a deity is a requirement for a "religion" and Buddhism requires no such belief.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Can someone define 'religious' and 'spiritual', please? Some of these posts make my old R.E. teacher's explanation of the trinity seem as clear as day in comparison.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I'm looking forward to paying a visit to this bar on my next trip to Japan.

Can someone define 'religious' and 'spiritual', please?

Are there those who can navigate through this stuff just fine without requiring definitions? Is having the need for defining things that can't be defined part of what holds people back from understanding?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Atheists are non-religious, and Buddhism is a religion

Atheism means not believing in the existence of any god or gods: Buddhists do not believe in any god or gods.

http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/qanda03.htm

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@yabits 'Is having the need for defining things that can't be defined part of what holds people back from understanding? I was addressing a post which used the terms 'non-religious' and 'non-spiritual'. I'm just trying to find out what they feel 'spiritual' ( does it invoke the supernatural? ) means as opposed to 'religious'.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Atheism means not believing in the existence of any god or gods: Buddhists do not believe in any god or gods.

Non-belief is not a requirement either. A person can choose to believe in a deity and still be a Buddhist.

I'm just trying to find out what they feel 'spiritual' ( does it invoke the supernatural? ) means as opposed to 'religious'.

My working understanding of the terms -- which are by no means "definitive" -- has "religious" as a subset of the more encompassing term "spiritual." A person might get a glimpse of something when they look at the stars or something in nature, or tries to comprehend time. That something relating to the phenomenon of existence and consciousness might well be called a "spiritual experience."

Some might be inspired by that, or by any number of other motives, to want to follow a prescribed path to a defined "end" (heaven, eternal life, etc.). If it comes with a book and a Deity, it's called "religion." If a set scripture or deity is not a requirement, my working understanding does not refer to it as "religion," generally.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

“Japanese people can accept different kinds of religions. Religious practitioners should not force people to believe in one particular set of religious values. Instead we should use religions as a tool to support people,”

Very nice indeed!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Readers, please stop bickering. Focus your comments on the story and not at each other.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I can hardly accept the monks, but I can accept them as the new version of a bar without religion.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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