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Shinjuku Nishiguchi Monk

July 7th, 2003

This fellow is often seen standing by a pillar on the very busy basement-level area outside the West Exit of Shinjuku Station. A monk in traditional garb, holding a begging (alms) bowl, with the trademark monk’s hat (“Takuhatsu gasa”). Whenever someone drops some money into his bowl, he rings a bell.

The following text, from the Matsuyama Mokurai web site (a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism), describes this act in detail:

Despite attempting to be self-sufficient, most monasteries would practice alms rounds. Collecting alms was a symbolic act as well as a practical one and, thus, even if the monastery’s warehouse was full, the monks would go beg. … Monks might also stand silently on a street corner holding out their bowls for people to drop alms in. Sometimes ringing a small bell. This was typical of monks on pilgrimage. It is a practice you can still see today. Communication with lay people was usually limited. Monks kept their hats on and did not engage in conversation. Such interaction would cause the alms gift to become an act of favoritism. If kept anonymous, the begging is thus ennobling for both parties.
If you are interested in getting your hands on this kind of garb, or attire for various types of historical Japanese characters, go to this page of Shop Japan.

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