Tokyo, Japan -- Outside the 400-year-old Kyoouji Temple, Kansho Tagai, dressed in his traditional monk robes, paused and began a sutra. He bobbed his head and then broke into a lyrical rap.

"This is an old, old story, a fantasy and longing cosmology. Hey, hey, what's the story about? It's about the Buddha, yo. Hey brother, listen carefully! You got it? No? You don't? Okay, baby, no problem."

Tagai, or Mr. Happiness, as he prefers to be called, is delivering an ancient message to a hip hop beat. The monk hosts hip hop shows at his temple, drawing young people to a place that is traditionally filled with the elderly. His hip hop message is so popular that twice as many people now visit his temple.

"Buddha's doctrine is a treasure for us. But we're not able to convey his wisdom to the people if we only stick with the old ways. So I try to use a new way to spread Buddha's doctrine. I want to spread Buddhism to the young by using the language they easily understand. Buddhism itself hasn't changed. It's just the way it's presented," Tagai said.

COMMENT: Oh, dear. Is nothing sacred?



  1. He’s a bit behind the times – Christians eg Reverend DeWayne GoLightly and Preachas In Disguise have been doing rap versions of the gospel since the 80s

    (PS. I wouldn’t know these people if they bit me, I’ve got their names off Wikipedia)

  2. My Japanese colleagues point out that Buddhism plays a very different role in Japan than it does in the West.
    Here it is identified with everything liberal, hip, and cosmopolitan.

    In Japan, it is the opposite. Buddhism is seen there as a keeper of tradition and national identity. It tends to be very conservative and appeals mostly to the elderly. It is also very female hostile.
    In Japan, irony of ironies, it is Christianity that is seen as the hip, liberal, cosmopolitan religion that is much more female friendly.

    I’ve never been to Japan, but that’s what I’m told.

  3. Then there is Fr. Timothy Holder, he of the Hip-Hop Gospel and the Hip-Hop Prayer Book. He is a wonderful person and quite a character. He surely was able to reach his parishioners in the Bronx or in Queens (not sure which), with both of these. When in Birmingham, AL, he started a whole neighborhood outreach in a rundown area of town with tea, bread and marmalade, because that happened to be all he had the morning he decided to do something about his street people–speaking of Bricks.

  4. I took the title to have much broader reference …

    Oh, major error, Cathy. Best to always “think simple” on this blog. KJ occasionally has a big thought but he is very much the exception that proves the rule.

  5. You’ve confused me now and I don’t remember who I am or what my name is.

    Congratulations! You are now officially a regular OCICBW…er.

  6. Sorry to break it to you, MadPriest, but you’re right. Nothing is sacred.

    And, yes, Cathy; don’t worry about the confusion. Trust me, you’ll learn to like it! 🙂

  7. Hey, Keanu Reeves played Prince Siddartha, the Buddha, so, this is really no shock.

    But, yeah, Buddhism in Japan is, predominantly, associated with the Imperial family and all that is traditional and stodgy, even Shinto.

  8. (Psssst – Ellie – he hasn’t confused me really … well not that badly)

    Hey Mark – better Keanu than Arnie, I suppose