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Techno Buddhist Services
The Sho-On-Ji Temple(Fukui City)
March 7th, 2017
by Takeshi Takashima

A tiny temple in the small town of Togo, Fukui City, has achieved unexpected Internet fame recently – attracting the attention of thousands of people across the world.  Founded in the 15th Century, Sho-On-Ji is a traditional Buddhist temple.  However, recent services given by the priest Gyosen Asakura, which feature techno sound and light displays, are bringing the temple firmly into the 21st century.  Gyosen shot a video of his Buddhist service and uploaded it on YouTube.  Since then, his video has been viewed by over one hundred thousand people and has received positive comments such as: “A majestic creation,” “Extremely cool,” “This is the true beauty of music and spiritualism,” and so on. Gyosen is passionate about techno music and has even performed as a professional DJ in Kyoto.  His father, a big fan of classical music, has been a major influence on him.  He was given decks by his father and encountered the Japanese electronic music group Yellow Magic Orchestra in his teens.  Now, as the 17th chief priest of the Sho-On-Ji temple, Gyosen believes he has found a connection between the techno music that he loves and Buddhism – allowing him to combine his love for music with his chosen path in life.  For example, Gyosen sees Perfume’s “Dream Land” as an imaginative expression of Buddhism.

Gyosen produced his first Buddhist service in this innovative and creative style back in May 2016.  He amazed worshippers by using 3D projection mapping to project video images on to the temple’s beautiful Buddha statue and interior walls, essentially turning his temple into something resembling a techno house.  He attempted to express the nature of Buddhist life after death through techno.  As the music played, the traditional interiors of his temple shone in various beautiful colors of lights.  During the service, chants were made in the traditional way by Gyosen wearing a headset.  An elderly lady, who had worshipped at the temple for many years, commented that she could imagine that the world after death could be something like what she saw in Gyosen’s new style of service that day.

Gyosen sees the traditional gold interiors and sculptures such as phoenix and lotus flowers carved on the pillars and beams of the temple are one way of expressing Buddhist life after death that the people in the past created as their best forms of art.  Now he thinks it is his turn in the 21st century to use his techno style service as another way of expressing Buddhist life after death.  Gyosen plans to have his third techno style service in May 2017 and has raised 300,000 yen through crowd funding to pay for lighting equipment.

Temples like Sho-On-Ji used to be the center of community life in Japan. But in today’s world, where the population is less connected to religion, they are finding it difficult to attract worshippers. Gyosen’s challenge is therefore Japan’s challenge. Although he wonders whether people might consider his alternative style and use of crowd funding as unacceptable, he is challenging convention and his own apprehensions in order to try and secure a future for Buddhism in Japan.

Sho-On-Ji is located in Togo, which is a 20-minute taxi ride from Fukui Station.  You can also take the local ‘Etsumi-Hoku-Sen’ railway line from Fukui Station.  The temple is only in a few minutes’ walk from Togo Station.  As well as the Sho-On-Ji temple, Togo also has a pleasant stream with carp fish swimming in it, a popular sake brewery and a restaurant called “Tokkuri” whose chicken teriyaki is very popular.  It is surely worth visiting this coolest temple in the beautiful countryside town of Togo, Fukui City.

【抄訳】

福井市の東郷という小さな町にある小さなお寺が最近ネットで話題を呼んでいる。このお寺は、15世紀に建立された仏教の照恩寺。住職の朝倉行宣さんによる、テクノ音楽と照明技術を駆使した法要が21世紀の新しい仏寺として注目を浴びるきっかけとなった。行宣さんが自ら法要を撮影してYouTubeにアップしたところ動画の再生回数は10万回を超える勢いで、日本国内にとどまらずに欧米からも「A majestic creation」「Extremely cool」「This is the true beauty of music and spiritualism」という賞賛の声が届き始めている。

 

行宣さんはテクノ音楽の長年のファンで自らも京都でプロのDJとして活躍した。10代のころ、クラシック音楽を愛好していた父親からオーディオセットを譲り受け、YMOのテクノ音楽に出会った。現在、当寺17代目の住職として、行宣さんはテクノ音楽と法要を見事に融合させ、自らの道を歩んでいる。例えば、日本のテクノポップユニットPerfumeの「ドリームランド」という曲も行宣さんには仏教をイメージさせる。

 

行宣さんがテクノ法要を始めたのは、2016年5月。お寺の中の仏像や荘厳な飾り付けには、色鮮やかなプロジェクションマッピングを投影し、伝統的なお寺の空間をライブハウスのように変身させて参拝に来た人たちを驚かせた。音楽の力と最先端の照明技術を駆使し、仏教が伝えているお浄土(天国)を表現する。音楽が流れると、お寺のお御堂の装飾に様々な照明があてられ、柱や梁の鳳凰やハスの花が光の中に浮かび上がる。テクノ法要をよく聞くと、ヘッドセットマイクを装着した行宣さんが唱える経典が、普段の法要と全く同じテンポ、フレーズであることが分かる。長年、このお寺で手を合わせてきたある高齢女性は「お浄土ってきれいなところなんやね」と笑顔でこの新しい法要を抵抗なく受け入れている様子だった。

 

伝統的な仏教寺院の内装が金色に施され、柱や梁などに鳳凰やハスの花などの詳細な彫刻が施されているのは、何百年も昔の人々が当時の最高の技術を使って浄土を表現しようとした結果であると行宣さんは改めて指摘する。「それならば現代の技術を使って仏教が考える浄土の光の世界を表現しようと思った」と行宣さんは話す。行宣さんは2016年10月の法要で新作を発表。現在は今年5月3日の大きな法要に向けて準備を進めている。照明をバージョンアップさせようと、クラウドファンディングで寄付を募ったところ、目標の30万円が期限内に集まった。

 

照恩寺のような寺は日本の地域社会にとって人が集まる場所であった。しかし今日、お寺の参拝者は年々減少し、若者の宗教離れは日本でも深刻化している。日本のお寺は信仰、経営の両面において次世代の在り方が問われている。行宣さんの挑戦は、日本のお寺が昔にそうだったように、お寺を老若男女が気軽に集える場所に再生していく挑戦だ。行宣さんは「テクノ法要もネットを使った資金集めも、ふざけているように思われるかもしれないが、仏教の将来を真剣に考えた上での取り組み。過去にとらわれていては何も始まらない」と話している。

 

 照恩寺は福井駅から車で20分程度の農村エリア「東郷」にある。ローカル鉄道「越美北線」の東郷駅からは歩いて3分ほど。近くの町並みにはコイが泳ぐせせらぎがあり、歴史ある造り酒屋や地元の人たちが愛してやまない「鳥の照り焼き」が有名な食堂「トックリ軒」もある。のどかな日本の風景と、最高にクールで挑戦的な仏教文化を同時に楽しめる場所は世界的にも珍しいだろう。

 


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