Booze and Buddhism Meet in a Tokyo Bar

By McCarton Ackerman 03/29/13

A monastery and a drinking establishment become one at Japan's "Vowz Bar."

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Japanese buddhist monk Yoshinobu Fujioka helps his congregants find inner peace by serving up spiritual teachings and cocktails in one setting. He owns the 23-seat "Vowz Bar" in central Tokyo, which features Buddhist chants playing on a sound system and shaven-headed bartenders serving up sermons along with the drinks. The novelty concept has developed a loyal following and the bar has been running strong for 13 years. Fujioka, who also works at a temple just outside Tokyo during the day, says the model is simply an adaptation of an old tradition. "People would gather in a Buddhist temple and drink together, we've just updated the tradition to fit our times," he says. "They become totally different believers here, the distance between them and myself diminishing. They are more connected with each other." The cocktail names have spiritual elements to them like "Perfect Bliss" and "Enslavery to Love and Lust," but patrons say it's the atmosphere that keeps them coming back. "Every day, my heart gets tainted by dirt in the secular world," says regular patron Noriko Urai, "so I come here to repurify it over some drinks and fun." Vowz Bar isn't the world's only Buddhism-themed drinking establishment; NYC bar Burp Castle features Gregorian chants over the speakers while bartenders in monk robes shush the bar when it gets too loud.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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