March 30, 2011
A 50-year-old Buddhist monk in Japan is making up his own rap music to attract young people to Buddhism. Via UPI.com:
The sounds of central Tokyo's Kyoouji Temple have long included softly chanted prayers and traditional bell chimes. But in recent years, another beat has joined them: hip-hop.
“Okay, baby, no problem. It is hard to live in this world. Hey, hey, bro, listen carefully!”
This lyrical rap comes from Kansho Tagai. He is not a hip-hop star, but a 50-year-old monk who is also the head of this 400-year-old temple.
Tagai raps Buddhist sutras to hip-hop beats to draw younger people to his place. Once or twice a month he dresses in traditional Buddhist robes and performs hip-hop at his temple.
Tagai’s efforts have won him young followers, who call him Mr. Happiness for his positive outlook. The number of people that visit his temple has doubled since he began rapping. Each month, about 100 young fans stop by to see Tagai.
“I am interested in studying Buddhist thinking,” said Kurara Nakano, who lives in Handa, a city west of Tokyo. “But we have few chances to meet and talk to monks, even though there are so many temples all over Japan.”
Tagai has seen the changing religious landscape in Japan, since he took over the Kyoouji Temple when he was 26 years old. He met several rappers by chance a few years ago and decided to try a new way to teach sutras. A new method might improve the public image of Buddhist monks, he reasoned.
“Hip-hop is a good way to communicate with youths, and I have built a good relationship with them,” Tagai said. “They told me that they have never met such an easy and friendly monk.”
Check out the video below for a clip of Kansho Tagai rapping.
To read more about Tagai and his music, click here.