Buddhist Monks Extend a Helping Hand to Japanese Singles Seeking Romance
With growing numbers of people in Japan delaying marriage until later in life, or in some cases never marrying at all, some Buddhist temples are offering desperate singletons an alternative avenue for finding that special someone, organizing Buddhism-themed matchmaking gatherings to help people connect in a conducive, low-pressure environment.
Working in the monks’ favor is the traditional perception in Japan that people who seek marriage advice from monks tend to be of better-than-average moral character. No less of an incentive is the fact the temples tend to charge far less than the fees demanded by commercial matchmaking services.
“I’m afraid of online matchmaking because a friend of mine fell victim to marriage fraud,” said one 37-year-old woman hoping to find a potential life partner. “I feel the people coming to events at the temple are honest.” (The Japan Times)
Last month, some 60 hopeful men and women in their 20s to 40s gathered in Tenryuin-ji, a Rinzai Zen temple in Tokyo, chanting lines from the Heart Sutra. Addressing the group, chief monk Shinichi Kitaori, told the gathered: “Today will never return. I want you to form a strong connection with each other at this temple.”
The event was organized by a group called Kichienkai (or favorable meeting club), founded in 2010 by 38-year-old Koshi Kimiya, deputy head monk of Ryuun-ji, a temple in Shizuoka Prefecture, who was inspired by a friend who sought his advice on finding a spouse. Kichienkai has already reached out to some 800 temples across the country, and has held matchmaking events in the prefectures of Aichi, Gifu, Shizuoka, and Tokyo. According to the results of a voluntary survey on the Kichienkai website, out of some 7,000 participants served since the monastic matchmaking service began in 2010, Kichienkai has brought together at least 95 married couples.
Some of the monks involved in the venture say they hope this novel form of social engagement will also serve to draw more people to temples. “People in their 20s to 40s, who usually stay away from temples, trust us priests,” noted Kimiya, who now heads Kichienkai’s secretariat.
Buddhism in Japan is at something of a crisis point—although about 75 per cent of Japan’s 127 million people identify as Buddhists, most seldom see the inside of a temple outside of traditional ceremonies to mark the new year and funeral rites for deceased family members. In addition to joining hearts, many temples hope they can also bolster Buddhism’s flagging appeal to modern Japanese at a time when some 27,000 of the country’s 77,000 Buddhist temples are projected to close in the next 25 years, reflecting a loss of faith in organized religion.*
At a similar event held at Doraku-ji in Wakayama Prefecture, a temple better known as a foster home for children, the monks place an emphasis on the importance of family and ensure that Buddhism remains at the forefront of proceedings.
“Temples should be places for mental growth and I hope [the participants] will think they can become happy if they bring Buddhism into their daily lives,” said Shunko Yoshino, head monk at Anraku-ji, a Nichiren temple in Wakayama, and one of the organizers. (The Japan Times)
Doraku-ji head monk Ryushin Yasutake concurred. “For people who found their spouses here, our temples are places they can return to and seek advice from,” he said. “The feeling of being protected by Buddha should support their life.” (The Japan Times)
* Almost One-Third of Japan’s Buddhist Temples Expected to Close by 2040 (Buddhistdoor Global)
Marriage-shy Japanese turning to temple priests for help with matchmaking (The Japan Times)
Matchmaking priests bring couples together, help temples prosper (The Japan Times)
Buddhist temple singles parties: The enlightened way to find a romantic partner (Rocket News 24)
Buddhist Monks Are Only a Click Away in Japan (Buddhistdoor Global)
Buddhist Temple in Japan Welcomes New Role as Pokémon “Gym” (Buddhistdoor Global)
Japanese Monks Turn to Beats to Make Buddhism More Palatable (Buddhistdoor Global)
Survey Reveals Over 12,000 Temples in Japan Lack Resident Monks (Buddhistdoor Global)