At first glance, Yugasan Rendaiji doesn’t seem very different to the thousands of other Buddhist temples scattered across the country. It’s a place where members of the local community go at prescribed times of the year to pray, receive blessings and attend festivals. For tourists — the smattering who make it to the Okayama countryside, that is — it’s a picturesque place to drop by and snap a few photos.
But beneath the temple’s deceivingly ordinary exterior, a quiet revolution is brewing within the halls of Shingon, one of Japan’s most secretive and least understood Buddhist sects. It comes in the form of the Hoodie Monks, a one-of-a-kind movement that seems to naturally marry two cultures that might at first seem like unlikely partners: Buddhism and hip-hop.