Finding marriage partners is a problem shared by many young Buddhist priests, who have few opportunities to meet people of their own generation.

An event was held last month at a restaurant in Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture, to help them find marriage partners. It was attended by 23 priests and other men in their 20s to 40s, and 17 women.

The party started with a lay sermon by So Asakura, 31, deputy master of a temple in the city of Niigata.

“While people tend to judge others based on what they have or how they look, each person lives in his or her own luster,” he said.

The men then introduced themselves individually to the women. After conversing over food and beverages, participants swapped addresses and phone numbers.

Organizers declined to say whether the get-together yielded any successful matches.

Tomoki Tazawa, 28, deputy master of another temple in Niigata, said he attended the event to “eradicate the image of Buddhist priests as being stiff and formal.”

“I enjoyed the party because I rarely have opportunities to talk with people of my generation,” he added.

According to Asakura, many young priests are eager to marry. As the management of temples is mainly hereditary, the shortage of marriage partners directly affects the temple survival rate.

Asakura therefore thought up his plan to host a matchmaking party for priests and pitched it to Yoshihiro Katagiri, 49, who runs an event company in Niigata.

The first matchmaking party was held at Asakura’s temple, Kompoji, last July for 16 priests and 17 women.

“Buddhist priests usually meet elderly people . . . and tend to be regarded as charmless and strict,” Asakura said.

“I just wanted people to know that priests are ordinary people.”

For the December event, Asakura invited men who are not priests to attend as well, hoping they could meet future wives through their Buddhist faith.

Asakura met his wife, Risa, 24, at an ordinary matchmaking party. Getting married in June 2012, they now live in an apartment near his temple. She works as a nurse.

To help priests find marriage partners, “I would like to make them recognize first of all that they shouldn’t hesitate to attend matchmaking parties,” he said.

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