- Title: JAPAN: Monk rapper uses music to spread Buddhism
- Date: 4th February 2010
- Summary: TOKYO, JAPAN (FEBRUARY 3, 2010) (REUTERS) 49-YEAR-OLD BUDDHIST MONK KANSHO TAGAI RINGING BELL WHILE OFFERING PRAYERS MONK CHANTING SUTRA MORE OF MONK CHANTING SUTRA SEEN FROM BEHIND VIEW OF TEMPLE FROM STREET
- Embargoed: 19th February 2010 12:00
- Location: Japan
- Country: Japan
- Topics: Arts / Culture / Entertainment / Showbiz,Religion
- Reuters ID: LVA4ZMYJX8GQTBD2JLDOCNXOXMPU
- Story Text: The sound of a traditional Japanese bell echoes throughout a Buddhist temple in Tokyo as a Buddhist monk softly chants his morning prayers.
Here at the Kyoouji (pron: kyo-oh-gee) Temple in central Tokyo, monk Kansho Tagai offers prayers throughout the day.
Tagai, who heads a 400-year-old Buddhist temple, has been a local icon who has gained the nickname "Mr. Happiness".
Once in a while, he goes on stage, rocking the audience with hip hop beats and rapping Buddhist sutra in modern Japanese.
Standing in front of an audience full of Japanese youth sporting the latest streetwear, Tagai leads the crowd as they wave their hands from side to side and bob their heads to the lyrics.
Tagai says the idea of rapping Buddhist sutras came to him very naturally.
"When I listened to rap music for the first time, it was in English so I couldn't understand a word. And I realised that the same can be said for Buddhist sutras because most people can't understand a word. But the thing is, listening to rap music makes you feel good even though it may be incomprehensible," Tagai, who has been rapping in front of his followers since 2006, told Reuters on Wednesday (February 3).
The 49-year-old rapper monk hosts a variety of youth events at his temple from time to time inviting children, students and artists to take part in a non-traditional and open session.
There, he guides them through various Buddhist teachings and rituals, using simple and modern Japanese words blended with hip hop.
By adding the new twist, Tagai hopes to attract more young people to the world of Buddhism.
"With our new approach to the younger generation, I really hope that they'll see the fun side or Buddhism and actually be interested in the religion," he said.
Though Tagai ended up surprising many of his traditional Buddhist followers when he first performed as MC Happiness, they soon turned into avid fans.
"He really amazes everyone with his talent. When I first saw him on the stage, I was like 'wow!'" said 58-year-old Buddhist follower Yuriko Watanabe.
Tagai has yet to freestyle in front of an audience, but he is trying to break into a new genre - mixing Buddhist chants with tap-dancing.
The temple's first tap-dancing show, which is scheduled for later this month, will have a professional tap dancer rock to the beat of Tagai's chants.
The monk rapper also plans to make a special appearance on stage as a dancer instead of as a rapper.
After moon-walking across the temple floor, Tagai says he might try dancing Samba in another session.
Buddhism was introduced to Japan in the sixth century and has become a mainstream religion in Japan with Shintoism.
According to Japan's Agency for Cultural Affairs statistics for 2006, there are about 196 million people who consider themselves both Shintoist and Buddhists.
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