Buddhism meets beatboxing, hip-hop dancing and laser light shows at a temple in Tokyo, where efforts to get youth and foreign nationals interested in the centuries-old religion have taken on a modern twist.
About 30 students from around the world visited Komyoji temple on Thursday in the capital’s Arakawa Ward, where they watched a traditional Buddhist prayer ceremony updated with 21st-century technology and culture, including projection mapping, beatboxing and contemporary dance.
The event was held in the main hall of the temple which, unlike most Buddhist temples, is located in a spacious room in an upper floor of an office building just a few minutes’ walk from the nearest train station.
“It was a very modern temple so I was a little bit skeptical,” said Gerry Tuzo, a 29-year-old from Jamaica who has been living in Ishikawa Prefecture for the past four years. “But I was very surprised with the animation.”
Tuzo said he didn’t know what to expect but the projection mapping was “actually very awesome.”
The students first learned about the basic principles of Buddhism from Tatsunori Ohora, the temple’s chief priest, and they got the chance to try on kimono and learn a short dance from performers.
“What (Ohora) explained was a very good idea for how all humans should live even if you’re Buddhist or Christian, Muslim, or anything,” Tuzo said. “It makes sense to live in harmony with everyone.”
The event was part of a program called the International Development Youth Forum, which was established in 2012 to give young people the opportunity to learn about other countries in an increasingly globalized world.
The integration of technology and tradition stood out for Vivi Lin, a 21-year-old student from Edinburgh University in Scotland.
“Its very different from what I expected from a Buddhist temple,” she said. “I think it worked. It kind of attracts younger generations as well.”
Lin said that, in her mind, religion is sometimes “a little bit too serious,” but with technology, music and dancing, it’s more enjoyable.
“The purpose of Buddhism, as with all religions, I think, is to make people happy,” Ohora said. “If the students enjoyed participating in the prayer, that would make me happy as well.”