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.


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。












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