Japanese Buddhist Monks Compete In Test Of Ingenuity

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Tokyo: Japanese Buddhist monks dally their equipment today in a contest highlighting Ingenuity in chanting sutras, giving funeral sermons and, surprisingly, loud karate chops.

The contest, held on the sidelines of Japan’s first ever expo on the business of death and dying, was aimed at winning back public notice to the services of priests and monks as more people seek option to traditional funeral and burial customs.

Wearing outfit coloured in pale gold, purple, or black and white, the eight monks walked calmly onto a stage one by one, bowing to an viewer of about 100 people with their palms together.

They then grow to give short sermons and also chant solemn sutras and Buddhist songs, key required in conducting wakes and funerals according to the rites of the ancient religion.

But one of the contestants, Taigen Yokoyama, showed off a clear cut talent, demonstrating his technique in the Japanese martial art of karate by breaking a pile of 10 tiles with his bare right hand.
The event was held in conjunction with the Life Ending Industry Expo, which exert more than 200 companies involved in the business of death and funerals.

It followed another unique competition the before day that highlighted the work of the declining number of individual expert who prepare the dead for Buddhist funerals and cremations.

Observers say an growing number of people are cutting ties with traditional Buddhist temples and ignore building new tombs in graveyards, citing growing individualism and shortage of family members of the younger generation who can take care of graves.

It’s getting more and more difficult for monks to maintain their temples as a business as the temple memberships are declining, specifically in the countryside, said Mayumi Tominaga, a spokeswoman for the event.

“The number of people who die will peak in 2040 in Japan, but many aged people are choosing to stop using their ancestral tombs.

The winner of the “Beautiful Bozu (monk) Contest” was Shouyo Takiyoshi from a temple in northern Hokkaido, who sang melancholic Buddhist songs.

He was selected the winner based on the votes of viewer members as well as a five-judge panel of company managers, a monk and a pianist.

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