If the mention of Buddhist temples gives you a boring image, one of rising structures and bland colors, think again. A temple in a residential area in Tokyo found the best way to attract more visitors to its site by making it more lively and giving it color. Nowadays, the 400-year old Shoeizan Ryohoji temple welcomes flocks of tourists to its site because of the cute and colorful anime-inspired signage a priest has erected to inform people of its existence.
Before the signage was put up, not many knew that the temple was situated there. 49-year old chief priest Nichiko Nakazato was hoping to attract more people to visit the temple and see it as a gathering place where ideas and free communication is welcome. He had been thinking of a way that has not been tried before to lure them and had a chance to speak with an illustrator, who decided to capture the deities enshrined in the temple as anime characters. The artist depicted Benzaiten, one of the seven gods of fortune and Kishimojin, goddess of easy child delivery and rearing as cute and fun. While Nakazato was initially hesitant to put up the sign, he did appreciate the different way the gods were represented to she went ahead with his plan. Soon, locals from the area began visiting the temple and describing it as “nice” and “adorable.” This prompted him to officially put up the sign to inform tourists of the temple.
These days, the temple now averages 30 visitors daily but at one time received as many as 300. The former elderly demographic of people who go were also added with a younger mix of people, mostly anime enthusiasts. This has prompted Nakazato to open the temple to a cosplay event on May 25 to encourage more visitors. He noted how this opened an opportunity for him to share about Buddha. ‘I am having good experiences and finding better ways to impart Buddhist teachings to those who are unfamiliar with them,” he said.
[via The Asahi Shimbun]
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