Buddhist monks run a cafe in Tokyo to get the public interested in the religion in a more casual setting. Julie Noce reports.
MEE-HOE NAHN-BAH Miho Nanba practices meditative calligraphy while sipping a beverage in a fashionable neighbourhood in Tokyo. But it's not a typical cafe- this establishment is run by Buddhist monks. Customers can drink coffee, or alcohol, and grab a bite to eat all while chatting about spirituality. I want to come back, Miho said. It's casual and I want to talk to priests. Buddhism has long been associated with death and funerals in Japan. Recently, more and more Buddhist monks are trying to change that perception. NAH-OH YOU-KEY OH-GEE Naoyuki Ogi is a priest on staff and says combining religion with a lively cafe is the right answer. (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) BUDDHIST PRIEST, NAOYUKI OGI, SAYING: "Most of the customers are 20 to 40 year-old women. Although Buddhism always emphasizes death, this cafe emphasizes the living. I think that creates an atmosphere which makes it easier for people to accept Buddhism and that's the reason why it's popular with young women." Besides consultations with the priests, customers here can also take classes in prayer bead weaving. Other business ventures for Japanese Buddhist monks include a chain of bars where priests serve cocktails and offer advice... and 'rent-a-monk' services for funerals and other rituals.