Buddhism, once a significant element of Japanese culture, is beginning to decline in both popularity and influence, reports the New York Times. Buddhist rituals are even fading from funerals, where the religion once had a near-monopoly, as the Japanese increasingly rely on funeral homes, or skip funerals. If something doesn't change soon, the religion will "die out," predicts one priest. "We can't afford to wait. We have to do something."
The religion is being hurt by a lack of priest successors in family-run temples and dwindling populations in rural areas, where the most devoted tend to live. The priest attributes Buddhism's fading impact to its lack of relevance. "It doesn’t meet people’s spiritual needs,” he explained. “In Islam or Christianity, they hold sermons on spiritual matters. But in Japan very few Buddhist priests do that.”