Although we never really declare so, there is no doubt that Japan is predominantly a Buddhist country. It might seem a bit unconventional, but the Japanese practice of Buddhism, or any type of religious faith in that respect, is not defined by some group or place that they are attributed to. Rather, it’s a personal practice where they’d search for help when they need them.
So, it is totally natural for the Japanese to go to a bar and ask for some advices from a...Buddhist monk?!
VOWZ BAR - Where Monks Serve Drinks
Yes, you read that right. In Japan, for some reason we’ll probably never understand, there is a bar where Buddhist monks serve you drinks. And no, this is not one of those things like maid cafes where employees who are dressed like a monk serves you, they are certified monks who work as a monk at day.
Alcohol and Buddhism might not be a likely combination in, well, any aspect. However, apparently it’s not all that far apart according to the owner.
“Yes, we’ve had a lot of people ask us, some even criticizing the whole idea of a Buddhist monk serving drinks. But in fact, there is a teaching in Zen Buddhism called ‘Kissa-ko’, which simply means ‘would you like a cup of tea?’ It comes from an old Chinese story where the monk served tea to anyone who paid a visit to his temple. It’s important that we have the mental and spiritual capacity to serve tea to anyone despite their status or whether we like them or not.” explains the owner.
It’s quite inspiring, especially as we consider bars to be a place where wrongdoings could happen. Rather, they find that serving a drink would break down the barriers that we’d usually have when meeting people.
“We started this bar to help people understand that you don’t have to be remotely close to being a ‘good person’ to get in touch with Buddhism. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. We just wanted to have a place less serious than a temple or a counselling session, somewhere people could find relief from Buddhist teachings.”
The bar is exactly that. The interior is heavily inspired by Buddhism, but it also has an essence of an old local bar with an inexplicable “coziness” about it. People chat freely, just like a normal bar, but once the monk starts talking in a soothing and modest tone, everybody starts to listen to his word to find something to learn from. However, even this is not pressured. People simply come here for those small hints that the monks would throw out.
They also have a couple of original cocktails like the “Gokuraku-jodo” which means “heaven”, surprisingly good that no one would imagine a Buddhist monk made it!! There surely must have been some tasting involved in this alcoholic beverage.
If you have the chance, surely do try to go there and get inspired by these Buddhist bartenders!
Website (Japanese only): http://vowz-bar.com/
Closed: Sunday & National Holidays