The hum of conversation and the clinking of spoons and coffee cups fills the wood-panelled cafe in a fashionable Tokyo neighborhood as more than a dozen customers sip drinks and nibble desserts.
At first glance, the cafe, which also serves alcohol, looks like any other except for an altar next to the countertop bar with a Buddha statue set against a gold backdrop. Its name, Tera Cafe, is a another hint – Tera is Japanese for temple.
The menu confirms this is something different. It lists classes for 1,500 yen ($14) in weaving prayer beads, calligraphy with sutras, or lines of scripture, and consultations with a Buddhist priest.
Tera Cafe is part of a flourishing phenomenon in Japan where Buddhist monks are seeking to make inroads in the modern world as the public’s connection with a 15-century-old tradition fades.
Gone are the days when the faithful would drop by their neighborhood temple to talk to a monk over tea. Famously areligious, many Japanese observe rituals from different traditions, perhaps going for a church wedding and worshipping at a Shinto shrine at the New Year. Buddhism is associated with funerals.
Hirotake Asano, head priest at the Shingyoji temple near Tokyo who opened Tera Cafe in 2013, said Buddhist priests had to venture into society to build links. Read More