New Technologies Encompass Old Traditions in Japan


Around the world, consumers are used to being able to have nearly any product or service available using the Internet. We easily buy common products online, as well as more unique services and products. Online shopping provides details about products/services, delivery options, and clear pricing.

Perhaps one of the most unique services obtained over the Internet is in Japan, where a Buddhist priest can now be found with a few simple clicks on Amazon’s Japanese site. Before thinking this is a far-fetched idea, consider how the Internet has already disrupted many traditional commerce and activities. Religious and spiritual needs may be one of the latest disruptions.

For example, when Buddhists in Japan relocate, it can mean leaving behind a spiritual foundation and people may not have local temples to turn to in times of need. One such need was that of a widower who obtained a priest for a memorial service using obosan-bin – priest delivery via Amazon in partnership with a local start-up firm. While it has been viewed by some as unseemly commerce, priests and backers view that they are addressing people’s real needs. They hope that obosan-bin will preserve traditions and make them accessible to people who have become estranged from religious traditions.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss how Internet shopping has changed people’s buying habits.
  2. Poll students: What have they purchased online in the last two weeks?
  3. Show the Amazon Japan link (in Japanese):お坊さん便-法事法要手配チケット-移動なし/dp/B018HVTRXO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473869945&sr=8-1

  1. View the Obosa-bin Web site (also in Japanese):
  2. Ask students about their opinions on this topic. Also, divide students into teams and see what other religious or spiritual needs might be met using online sites.
  3. Finally, how should these services be marketed?

Source:  New York Times

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