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Technobuddhism

Many years ago, out of curiosity, I got up early to attend the morning prayers at a Buddhist temple in Kyoto. It wasn’t much fun, to be honest. The monotone chanting seemed to go on forever, and sitting in seiza the whole time rapidly became excruciating. When it was finally over, I felt like I’d been stuck there for hours although the whole thing probably lasted no more than 30 minutes. But there’s a temple in Fukui city where things are done slightly differently. Twice a year, the Sho-on-ji (照恩寺) temple puts on a prayer service with techno music and flashing lights… According to a BBC news item, these performances are the creation of Gyosen Asakura (朝倉行宣), a DJ-turned-priest who hopes to get more young people interested in Buddhism. I’d definitely go along if I happened to be in the area. I’d probably bring something to sit on, though. Click through to Asakura’s YouTube channel to see the videos of these events, with sound.

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Sukiyaki

The song Ue o muite arukō (上を向いて歩こう) by Kyū Sakamoto (坂本 九) was given the rather cheerful title of “Sukiyaki” when released in the West back in the early 1960s. The title actually means “I’ll look up as I walk”, and the song explains that this is because the singer doesn’t want to let his tears of sorrow fall to the ground. This stoical attitude to misfortune resonated strongly with the Japanese as they came to terms with last year’s disastrous earthquake and the events that followed. For example, in April the drinks manufacturer Suntory bought up advertising time on TV to lift people’s spirits with recordings of two Sakamoto songs sung by various celebrities who had appeared in Suntory adverts in the past. A rendering of Ue o muite arukō by artists including Tommy Lee Jones can still be seen on YouTube. But here’s the original version: Japanese Pronunciation Translation 上を向いて歩こう Ue o muite arukō I’ll look up as I walk 涙がこぼれないように Namida ga koborenai yō ni So the tears won’t fall 思い出す春の日 Omoidasu haru no hi As I remember those days in spring [More…]

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Header image: Snow covers the golden pavillion at Kinkakuji (金閣寺), a Buddhist temple in Kyoto. Photo: Frank Gualtieri.

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