Buddhist monks hit Tokyo club scene
TOKYO (Reuters) - Buddhist sutras are probably the last thing one expects to hear in a dim, smoky jazz club, but climb the narrow stairs up to Sound Music Bar Chippy in Tokyo's Edogawa Ward on the right night, and it will be Sanskrit, not saxophones, that fill the air.
Dressed in black robes and unceremoniously squeezed between a drum set and piano are Gojun Ichihashi, Shunkou Masuda and Hogen Natori, three Shingon Buddhist monks who come to Chippy once a month to chant sutras and remind patrons that Buddhism can be a part of daily life.
"I wanted a place where people could come after work, have some sake and experience Buddhism," said Natori, who first had the idea for the sutra sessions while listening to jazz at Chippy five years ago.
Buddhist temples, which once served an important role in community networks, have been criticised as only coming into people's lives for funerals and memorial services.
Soaking in the ritualistic harmonies while lounging on Chippy's dark red velvet sofas and downing beers, the mostly middle-aged bar-goers did not disagree.
"I don't go to temples unless someone dies," said Osamu Yamane, 68, who was hearing the monks perform for the first time. He said that, while the singing reminded him of his dead grandfather, he would likely come again.
The monks are currently the only Buddhist act in Tokyo's night clubs, but they invite their colleagues to take up song.
"If everyone did this, Buddhism would be much more popular," said Natori, 48. "Maybe after I turn 60, I'll climb mountains and become a sacred monk. For now, I think leaving the temple and going out to the people is the best way."
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