As a way of promoting Buddhism and revitalizing temples, a growing number of Buddhist priests in Japan have started jumping in on the nation’s growing matchmaking bandwagon. Events held at temples gather single men and women in the hope that they will find a match among the group.
Last month, Shunko Yoshino – chief priest at Anrakuji, a Nichiren-sect temple in the city of Wakayama – gathered 12 men and women, mostly in their late 30s and early 40s, for a singles event. Each one paid ¥2,500 (approx. $26) to participate. In the introduction part of the event, men were given the chance to introduce themselves to their female counterparts, talking about their jobs, families and other aspects of their lives. After the introductions, which also included making prayer beads and drinking tea together, participants wrote the names of those they were interested in on cards and submitted them to Yoshino, who chanted a Buddhist sutra for good matches. After the event, four couples were matched up.
This specific event is a joint effort by Yoshino and Ryushin Yasutake, the chief priest of the Kuze Kannon sect’s Dorakuji Temple in Katsuragi, Wakayama Prefecture. Both agree on the importance of family, and so the two priests began to host these matchmaking events to promote Buddhism into the family. The events have taken place on seven occasions to date, including the latest one in February, at either of their temples.
“For people who found their spouses here, our temples are places they can return to and seek advice from,” Yasutake said. “The feeling of being protected by Buddha should support their life.” Matchmaking events recently launched by other temples are also drawing attention as a model for revitalizing temple growth. This boom of matchmaking events held in temples has spread throughout the country. Katsuhiko Horiuchi, head of a group interested in temple lodging, started this process. Horiuchi has arranged some 90 matchmaking events in Tokyo and Osaka since 2009. The events have resulted in a number of marriages.