During our trip to Japan and on our last day in Tokyo, we stopped at Kyoou-ji and met a unique Buddhist monk. Rev. Kansho Tagai, aka Mr. Happiness, is a the head monk at Kyoou-ji and is putting a new spin on classic Buddhist sutras. Mr. Happiness has learned to hip-hop and uses Budhist sutras to make his raps. All of this has been In effort to attract more youth into coming to temple more regularly. This trend of breaking out of what is considered to be traditional roles of monks and temples is a growing trend in Japan as more temples are trying to redefine temples as gathering places for people.
When we arrived at Kyoou-ji we were taken into a small room to the side where we were served hot green tea and waited for Mr. Happiness to join us. The first few words that come to mind when trying to describe Mr. Happiness are cute and hug-able. The hip-hop Buddhist monk was very gracious towards us and told us how he become the Buddhist monk and why he went about incorporating rap into his teachings. Originally, Mr. Happiness wanted to become a farmer, but on a visit to North America he realized that it was not a good fit for him and upon returning to Japan became a Buddhist monk. After patiently waiting and answering all our questions we were shown the main room of the temple that housed the alter. Kyoou-ji was preparing for their Obon festival that was going to held the following night. Mr. Happiness described to us how he painted these slants of woods with names of the deceased and wood replace the current slants that adorn graves in the area behind the temple. Kyoou-ji is a small temple and these wooden slants filled most of the room, except for an area in the back with an elaborate and beautiful Buddhist altar. Mr. Happiness took time and explained to us the meaning of nearly every piece and item on the alter. Once finished with our warm reception with Mr. Happiness we began to leave Kyoou-ji, but took time to look at the peaceful temple grounds in the midst of the sprawling metropolis of Tokyo. It was here that we discovered at the base of tree the cutest Jizo statues we found in all of Japan!
We strongly encourage everyone to visit the links below to find out more about and plan their own trips to Kyoou-ji to meet Mr. Happiness.