Japan’s Buddhists want Amazon to end ‘rent-a-monk’ service

By Mike Firn, Tokyo/The Telegraph

Japan’s Buddhists want Amazon to stop offering its rent-a-monk service in the country because it harms the religion’s public image.

Amazon has been advertising packages offered by Minrevi Co, which sends out monks to perform Buddhist memorial services and other ceremonies.

However, the Japan Buddhist Federation (JBF) says hiring out monks over the internet commercialises a religious act.

“In Christian or Muslim countries, there are no examples of commercialising a religious act,” Akisato Saito, JBF chairman, told the Asahi newspaper. “We cannot help but feel doubt and disappointment toward Amazon’s attitude to a religion since it is commercialising a religious act,” he said.

The Amazon listing offers four packages ranging from 35,000 yen (£196) to 55,000 yen including sales tax. The monks visit homes and grave sites throughout Japan to chant sutras and give sermons.

Minrevi began offering advice on Buddhist funerals on its website in 2009 and it started the “simple funeral” and “monk delivery” services two years ago. Monks registered to the site receive money ‘offerings’ from Minrevi once the company`s fees have been deducted.

The “monk delivery” service has been given three out of five stars rating, based on 38 customer reviews on the Amazon website.

There are 96 million Buddhists in Japan, according to the JBF, which claims to represent 90 per cent of all Buddhist organisations in the country.

The JBF plans to send a written request to Amazon early next year to ask it to stop offering the rent-a-monk services, the Asahi reports.

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