Matchmaking priests bring couples together, help temples prosper

by Takeshi Nishide

Kyodo

A growing number of Buddhist temples have been capitalizing on the nation’s recent matchmaking boom.

In the middle of last month, 12 men and women, mostly in their late 30s and early 40s, gathered at Anrakuji, a Nichiren-sect temple in the city of Wakayama, for a singles event, with each doling out ¥2,500 to participate.

“Please value the chance of meeting each other here even if you don’t find a partner,” the temple’s chief priest, Shunko Yoshino, 35, said at the event’s kickoff.

Each man was allotted three minutes to introduce themselves to their female counterparts, talking about their jobs, families and other aspects of their lives.

After the introduction events, which also included making colorful prayer beads and drinking tea together, participants wrote the names of those they were interested in on cards and submitted them to Yoshino, who chanted a Buddhist sutra for good matches.

“You have Buddha in yourself and I want you to find Buddha in other people,” Yoshino said in his subsequent lay sermon. ” ‘Buddha meets Buddha’ is the theme of this event.”

Eventually, four couples were matched up.

The matchmaking event was jointly launched in 2011 by Yoshino and Ryushin Yasutake, 37, chief priest of the Kuze Kannon sect’s Dorakuji Temple in Katsuragi, Wakayama Prefecture.

Yoshino and Yasutake, whose temple is also known as a foster home for children, became acquainted through a nonprofit organization aimed at teaching Buddhism to children.

Agreeing on the importance of family, the two priests jointly started the matchmaking events and have conducted them on seven occasions to date, including the latest one in February, at either of their temples.

The event also brings Buddhism to the forefront since it is held at temples, the two stressed.

“Temples should be places for mental growth and I hope (participants) will think they can become happy if they bring Buddhism into their daily lives,” Yoshino said.

“For people who found their spouses here, our temples are places they can return to and seek advice from,” Yasutake said. “The feeling of being protected by Buddha should support their life.”

Matchmaking events conducted by temples of different sects are also drawing attention as a model for revitalizing temples.

As neither Yoshino nor Yasutake was born into a temple, they hope that matchmaking, as well as other unconventional events, will attract more people to temples.

While matchmaking events are now held at temples in various parts of the country, the move was triggered by Katsuhiko Horiuchi, 34, head of a group interested in temple lodging.

Since 2009, Horiuchi has arranged some 90 matchmaking events in Tokyo, Osaka and their surrounding areas for men and women who share a love of temples. The events have resulted in a number of marriages.

Horiuchi said he began the program because “it’s difficult to find people with the same interests as mine.”

“I would like to create chances for people to meet while also helping the revitalization of temples,” Horiuchi said.