Even 850-year-old traditions are getting with the times.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from Buddhist temples, it’s that they know how to adapt to modern life (such as in the form of EDM dancing). The Jodo sect of Buddhism, which is celebrating its 850th birthday in 2024, has announced plans to release an app in autumn 2022 that allows you to earn points by visiting temples. These points are called “mairi“–a wordplay on “omairi“, the Japanese word to signify visiting and praying at a temple, and “miles”.

Along with celebrating the sect’s 850th birthday, the app aims to encourage Japan’s quickly dwindling temple visitors to return to their previous omairi habits. According to the Jodo sect, traditional New Year’s holiday temple visitors were down by almost 50 percent in 2022, likely due to the pandemic and other factors.

Whenever you visit a temple registered in the app, you’ll earn points that you can exchange for goods. Just passing through the main gate can earn you points via GPS detection, and you’ll earn even more by entering the temple grounds to scan the QR codes placed near the main hall (hondou).

10 mairi will get you some tasty senbei rice crackers, and 50 will get you some craft ginger ale, and so on. Some ways to earn even more points include visiting temples in particularly remote locations and attending special events at certain locations throughout the year.

▼ Gotta get that ginger ale (respectfully).

While some have voiced concerns over turning the practice of sacred temple visits into a collecting game, the Jodo sect has responded that they’re prepared for the criticism. Their goal for now, they say, is to reintroduce the habit of visiting Buddhist temples as part of everyday life.

On the other hand, many are in support of the project, voicing their opinions online.

“Whoever came up with the name ‘Mairi’ is a genius.”
“I feel like they have a better grasp on technology than the Japanese government.”
“We are in the age when monks have YouTube channels, after all.”
“This is so cool!”
“I think it’s a great idea.”

The Jodo sect is currently in the process of recruiting over 7,000 temples throughout Japan to participate in the project, so look forward to this autumn to see the results! We wonder how many points the future outer space temple will be worth…

Sources: Hamster Sokuhou via Yomiuri Shinbun
Images: Pakutaso (1,2)
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