Thursday, January 20, 2011

Manga & Buddhism In Japan

Tokyo's otaku generation is being wooed by an unlikely source -- a Buddhist temple in Hachioji, according to Japan Style.

Ryohoji temple, built in the 16th Century, began its makeover thanks to chief monk Shoko Nakazato, who in June 2009 set up a manga-inspired sign to "tell the people that temples are a fun place to visit."

Since then though, the temple has become known as "Moe-dera" ("newly budding temple"), a reference to "moe" -- a feeling of attraction to a blossoming young girl, usually a manga character -- while "dera" means "temple."

Ryohoji now has its own theme song and CD which includes karaoke versions, fronted by Ryohoji's own character, designed by artist Toromi. A statue of the character, called Toro Benten, was revealed in a special ceremony and features a young girl with sword aloft representing the goddess of art and wisdom.

Monks are seen praying to the statue on videos at the temple's own website. The character is also played out by a young girl in costume, who invites people to festivals at the temple and has been carrying out recent ceremonies and entertaining customers at a tent maid cafe right outside the temple.