In an effort to broaden the understanding of Buddhism among the lay population, some followers are using a traditional form of Japanese storytelling as a teaching tool.

Professional storyteller Kyokudo Nankai, 49, is one of the leaders. In late December, Nankai told the story of Kukai, who founded the Shingon school of Buddhism and is known posthumously as Kobo Daishi, to a gathering of people at a temple in the busy Minami shopping district in Osaka.

Vividly depicting Kukai's young days, Nankai stressed the great Buddhist master's resolve to "help sufferers" while occasionally arousing laughter from the audience by referring to funny episodes.