Shaved heads, liquor and... sutras? Buddhist priest beat combo gig in Tokyo

The story below is originally published on Mainichi Daily News by Mainichi Shinbun (
They admitted inventing its kinky features, or rather deliberately mistranslating them from the original gossip magazine.
In fact, this is far from the general Japanese' behavior or sense of worth.
※ この和訳はあくまでもボランティアの方々による一例であり、翻訳の正確さについては各自判断してください。

"Shaved heads, liquor and ... sutras? Buddhist priest beat combo gig in Tokyo tavern"

「坊主頭、酒そして…お経? 東京のパブで坊さん木魚コンボパフォーマンス」


For most Japanese nowadays, Buddhist priests are the people they meet at funerals, but a group of bonzes are trying to change that image through live performances of rock sutras, according to Cyzo (October).

The priests do a live reading of Buddhist prayers on stage at a tiny, 20-seat pub called Chippy in the Tokyo suburb of Shinkoiwa.

"All our chants are in Sanskrit, so there's no need to try and understand what we're saying. People can just enjoy the sounds. Our chants are where folk songs and enka (maudlin Japanese ballads) come from," Hogen Natori, head priest of the Shingon sect temple Mitsuzo-in in Tokyo's Edogawa-ku, tells Cyzo. "We don't just do sutras that you'd hear at funerals, we also do a lot of livelier stuff as well."
「私たちのお経はすべてサンスクリット発音なので、私たちが言っていることを理解する必要はない。その音を楽しむだけで良い。私たちのお経と民謡や演歌(感傷的な日本のバラード)は同じところから起源しています、」と都内江戸川区真言宗寺院みつぞいんのホウゲン ナトリ住職はサイゾーに言う、「私たちはあなた方がお葬式で聞く読経だけではなく、多くの生き生きした読経もまたするのです。」

When he was young, Natori gave plenty of sutra chanting performances overseas, including a show at New York's Carnegie Hall, but in Japan the only place he had been able to chant was in homes during funerals. He was a regular at Chippy and started to put on chanting shows there. He has enlisted the aid of fellow Buddhist priests Shunko Masuda and Gojun Ichihashi, and they put on their gig once every four weeks dressed in their priestly garments.
彼は若いとき、海外(ニューヨークカーネギーホールを含み)で多くの読経公演を催したが、日本で読経をすることができる場所は葬式で訪れた家々だけであった。彼はチッピーの常連であり、そこでの読経公演を始めた。彼は共演者として僧侶仲間のマツダ シュンコウさんとイチハシ ゴウジュンさんの協力を得て、僧衣に身を包み4週毎に演奏を催す。

"A lot of people in the Buddhist community moan about us getting up on stage to perform in our robes. But we want people who have no interest in Buddhism to know what it's like to hang out with a Buddhist priest as someone they can feel close to," Natori says. "Buddhism in the 21st century can't just stay cooped up in temples."

The three priests do three sets a night and try to drink with customers as much as they can.

Buddhist temples once played a central role in Japanese society, often functioning as the core of the community. But now, most Japanese only come in touch with temples when they attend a funeral or memorial service.

"Many temples nowadays are run by third-generation priests who have inherited their places," Natori tells Cyzo. "But, with about 80,000 nationwide, there are still more Buddhist temples in Japan than there are convenience stores. And there are also about 170,000 Buddhist priests, which is more people than there are enlisted in the Self-Defense Forces. If that many temples and priests got more in line with what's going on nowadays, Japanese society would be a lot more fun. That's probably a bit too difficult a goal to try and bring about, but we're just doing our own little bit."

(By Ryann Connell)


Shaved heads, liquor and ... sutras? Buddhist priest beat combo gig in Tokyo tavern




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