Bedside Religion

If you go to a hotel in the US- most any hotel- from 1-star to 4-stars, you’ll likely to encounter a number ubiquitous things. For example, a bed, a TV, relatively clean towels and sheets, perhaps a bathrobe and slippers. In fact, these are pretty much international standards.



One other thing you’ll find in most any US Hotel’s beside table is a New Testament or Gideon’s Bible. The good folks at Gideons International have been placing religion at the besides of hotel patrons for over a century and now there’s no surprise associated with discovering a New testament in the drawer. In fact, if there isn’t one would be more of a surprise. I’m not sure why they began this practice. Whether it was for the purpose of proselytizing or a little light reading for Christians travelling abroad or just a little beside guilt for the fornicating Christians out there is a mystery to me.

Well, Gideons don’t have “international” in their name for nothing. They have also promulgated the Christian God’s words to live by all over Tokyo and Yokohama … Though you’re not likely to find one at a Love Hotel in Shibuya (wouldn’t deter any fornication up in there, that’s for sure), if you go to, let’s say, a hotel that caters to Westerners like the Prince Hotel in Shinagawa you’ll find that the Gideons have been there…with a little added spiritual bonus for you non-Christians (like myself) out there. Yep, roll over and slide the draw open and…


Holy Asian Testaments!  What’s this?


Japan being a relatively secular country, it’s mildly surprising to find a Christian bible, not to mention a Buddhist text bedside.

Do Buddhist proselytize, too? I’ve never been approached by one. Anyone know the Buddha’s views on pre-marital sex?


8 Responses to “Bedside Religion”

  1. 1 Eddie
    September 3, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    This is my first comment! I have been reading your posts for a few months now, and I have to say I have great respect for you man. You are actually doing something with your life and you put up with alot on a daily basis. I am black myself and its nice to find a blog that relates to me. (other blogs about japan are cool to.)I would like to visit and maybe work in japan, its also good to here all the negative and positive things about japan. I like how you don’t hold back your thoughts and how you tell it how you see it, no fluff. Well anyways keep the posts coming dude!

    • September 4, 2009 at 10:21 am

      Eddie-san, thanks for shouting. First time eh? Yep i try to keep it relatively Fluff-free but I got some fluff in me too hehe
      Glad you approve. Please continue to check in when u have the time (-:

  2. 3 Tem
    September 4, 2009 at 6:18 am

    My experience dealing with Buddhism in immigrant Asian neighborhoods suggests that most Buddhist priests/monks do not actively proselytize or, at least, do not do so on the level of, say, Mormon missionaries or Jehovah Witnesses. There exist small sections (usually a table and several chairs) at most Chinese, Japanese, and Southeast Asian restaurants where various Buddhist groups leave scriptural material for those interested. For the most part however, most Buddhist groups seem to have very parochial (not in a negative sense) interests with regards to the laypeople and generally only serve one particular regional/social/ethnic group.

  3. 5 Moogiechan
    September 4, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    I actually have that book, in English and Japanese. Someday I hope to be able to read the Japanese side.

    My guess is that Buddhists believe that if you aren’t a Buddhist this time around, it’s OK because you’ll be reincarnated! Also, the Dalai Lama has said that people shouldn’t change religion. So, don’t expect any Zen monks on your door step!

    Most Japanese are both Buddhist and Shinto, going to Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines for different things.

    With political correctness run amok in the US, I don’t remember seeing any religious text in hotels for a while.

  4. September 6, 2009 at 10:28 pm

    You have to look, Moogiechan…They are still there…And don’t confuse PC with JC. JC is still PC in the US (-:

  5. September 27, 2009 at 1:30 am

    Your blog is very interesting, I look forward to reading more. I’ll attempt to answer your question. I’m a Japanese-American Japanese Buddhist (Jodo Shinshu). I’m not any sort of expert on Buddhism in Japan, though.

    Jodo Shinshu, which dates from 13th century Japan, does have a focus on proselytization, although it’s veeery mild compared to, say, Mormonism. It’s very international, especially since many emigrating Japanese circa 1900 set up Jodo Shinshu congregations in North America, Brazil and Peru. The idea is that we have a great take on Buddhism that’s really easy to practice for everyday people — you don’t have to be a monk or a strict vegetarian and so on — so why not share it to people who might be interested and looking?

    I’m pretty sure that book you saw is Jodo Shinshu. It’s published by an organization founded by a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist… more info here – http://www.bdk-jp.org/english/activity/bases.html

    Another Japanese school of Buddhism is Nichiren Buddhism, which dates from around the same time, has a much stronger focus on proselytization. There are a lot of schisms and controversies in Nichiren Buddhism, but one of the strongest divisions is Soka Gakkai, a lay organization associated with a political party in Japan. They are very politically involved and do active campaigns to convert people all over the world. In America, it’s the most diverse form of Buddhism, and there are some high-profile African-Americans that are Soka Gakkai (Congressman Hank Johnson, Tina Turner, Herbie Hancock).

    Zen — which has major differences from the above two schools — is also very popular in America, but not really because of proselytization. Instead, that was more of an “import” model.

    @Tem: I disagree strongly that immigrant Buddhism is always “parochial”. My experience is different. Asian-American Buddhists don’t tend to be very loud about their Buddhism simply because we’re often nervous about sticking out too much and getting persecuted for it.

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