Japan's Buddhist monks are taking action in their mission to find successors to their temples – by attending matchmaking parties to find a wife.
A number of matchmaking events involving Buddhist monks, who are permitted to marry and have families in Japan, have taken place in the capital.
The daughters of temple owners without clear male successors have also been drawn to these events in order to meet potential monk husbands.
As a result, one such matchmaking event was recently organised by a consultation office at the headquarters of the Buddhist order Nichiren Shu.
"We would like to give people the opportunity to find a good marriage match," a spokesman for Nichiren Shu told The Telegraph.
"This is for the second or third male children of temple owners, monks from lay families and temple daughters who need to meet monks to take care of the temple for future generations. Followers who want to marry with monks can also attend." Their most recent event took place on the 30th floor of a skyscraper in the Odaiba area of Tokyo and involved rows of shaven-haired monks in suits sitting at tables and being formally introduced to suitable young women.
Among the 51 participants was a 27-year-old monk from Kurashiki, Okayama prefecture, who told the Asahi Shimbun: "It's very hard to find a young woman who wants to marry a monk unless we take very proactive approaches in meeting such women." It was not just the monks who were concerned about the future of the family temples: another guest was a 24-year-old woman from Ichinomiya, Aichi Prefecture, who told the paper: "My father is a temple mater and I have three elder sisters. I want to find someone who will take over my father's temple." Meanwhile, another 37-year-old woman who attended without any temple connections in her family described the practical and financial appeal of potentially partnering a monk.
"If you marry a monk who owns a temple, as opposed to marrying a businessman, you do not need to worry about your husband being laid off as a result of his company's restructuring," she said.
Buddhism, the nation's second major faith after Shinto, has suffered a steep decline in popularity in recent years, with many temples facing financial difficulties as a result.
A growing number of innovative projects have been developed by Buddhist temples in Japan in order to revive interest and income – from opening jazz lounges and beauty salons to catwalk shows and hip hop concerts.