Matchmaking service gives Buddhist monks a boost in dating market

The Japan Times, Jan. 19, 2012

Kyodo, Japan -- Buddhist monks and matchmaking services may sound like an unlikely combination, but many Buddhist sects in the country are now offering such services for their monks as their temples face a dearth of successors and possible integration with other temples.

One such sect is the Koyasan Shingon, headquartered on Mount Koya, Wakayama Prefecture.

Out of its 3,700 temples nationwide, some 800 currently have no managing monks and are being overseen by other temples.

In Japan, it is typical for relatives of monks — especially head monks — to inherit caretaker duties of their temples.

But because of a lack of successors, the monks have become desperate to find wives in order to preserve this tradition and save their temples from being closed or integrated.

According to Takua Kamei of Kongobuji, the head temple of the Shingon sect, one problem is that "the harder they pursue Buddhism, the fewer opportunities they can have to meet people of the opposite sex."

Kamei noted that families, known as "danka" in Japanese, which for generations have provided voluntary financial support to Buddhist temples, are also concerned about their temples if monks remain single and have no successors.

Kongobuji joined the matchmaking service in April 2009 to help its monks and their sons and daughters find partners.

Under the service, those who are interested submit to the temple forms in which they introduce themselves and state various information, including whether they are willing to live with their potential in-laws or to be adopted by their partner's family or if they mind smoking or drinking.

As of December, about 80 monks were registered as members of the free service, according to the temple. Since its launch, the service has helped two couples marry and two others begin dating.

Nishi Honganji, the head temple of the Shin Buddhism sect in Kyoto, also joined a similar service in 2007.

Twelve couples from that temple had decided to get married by the end of last September.

The Nichiren sect has meanwhile held matchmaking parties each year since 2008, managing to pair up two couples.