TOKYO • Memorial services held online. Zen meditation apps. Matchmaking services led by Buddhist temples.
As the Covid-19 pandemic forces institutions around the world to change the way they do things, those new endeavours are some of the ways that Buddhist groups in Japan are trying to survive.
Ryosokuin, a Zen temple with more than 660 years of history in Kyoto, is one such innovator.
Faced with a fall in services such as memorials and a plunge in tourism, the organisation boosted its online operations. It developed a meditation app that has been downloaded over 15,000 times, that it expects to eventually monetise, and it has organised an online zen meditation community called UnXe, meaning "cloud-sitting".
"When we lost visitors and donations fell, we realised that our conventional way of supporting our operations no longer works," said Mr Toryo Ito, deputy chief priest at the temple. "We need to adapt to a management style which meets with the times."
Tsukiji Hongwanji, a four-century-old temple near Tokyo's old fish market, is another organisation trying to make the best of the virus period. It started online memorial services last May for families that do not want physical gatherings while paying respects for the deceased, and has done about 70 such events, according to Mr Yugen Yasunaga, a representative director and priest at the temple.
The organisation is also venturing into areas that staid temples are not traditionally known for, such as matchmaking services, a cafe and yoga classes, said Mr Yasunaga, who worked in a major Japanese bank for more than two decades before starting his career at Tsukiji Hongwanji.
"Just like Amazon.com responds to the various needs of customers online, a temple can do the same," he said.