Tokyo’s Monk-Run Bar Mixes Cocktails with Buddhism

Who says booze and religion don’t mix? That’s certainly not the case at Vowz, a unique Tokyo bar run by two Buddhist monks who serve customers delicious cocktails, religious chants and sermons.

There are over 10,000 bars in Tokyo, but none like the Vowz, in the city’s Yotsuya neighborhood. Opened by Japanese Buddhist monk Yoshinobu Fujioka, this offbeat watering hole has been bringing members of his congregation together for 13 years. “They become totally different believers here, the distance between them and myself diminishing,”the shaved-head bartender says. “They are more connected with each other.” In the old days, people would go to Buddhist temples to socialize and have a drink, but times have changed, and Fujioka decided to adapt in order to remain close to the people. So he opened the Vowz Bar, a place where people could come in and listen to Buddhist sermons and homilies without feeling constrained in any way. “At the temple, folks are always well-behaved and attentive, no matter how long or boring the sermon is,” head monk Gugan Taguchi says. “Here at the bar, they don’t like my sermons — they walk out.” But thanks to the friendly atmosphere and the tasty cocktails prepared by the monks themselves, that hardly ever happens.



Photo: Rocket News

There is no house band, jukebox or karaoke at the Vowz Bar. Instead, patrons listen to soul-cleansing chants and sermons performed by the bartenders/monks. It may not be everyone’s idea of a fun night out, but Tokyo’s Buddhist bar has a very loyal clientele. “Every day, my heart gets tainted by dirt in the secular world, so I come here to repurify it over some drinks and fun,” says 42-year-old Noriko Urai, a regular at Vowz. But while some people come here to get in touch with their spiritual side and ask the monks for advice with their problems, others just love to their original cocktails. Bearing religion-inspired names like “Burning Hell”, “Perfect Bliss” or “Enslavery to Love and Lust” they always manage to get a good conversation going.


While the Buddhist monk-operated bar might not be as strange as the monkey waiter restaurant or the hypnosis cafe, it’s definitely one of the most unique venues in Japan.

Sources: NPR, Reuters

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