The bartenders are real monks! Enjoy a unique experience of drinking while being exposed to Buddhism

Do you know “Vows Bar” where you get to experience Buddhism in Japan? Have a good time by talking with real monks while enjoying the bar’s original cocktails.

Vows Bar is located in Araki-cho in Shinjuku. The area is also known as a “Hanamachi,” a district where there used to be many geishas. Opened in 2000, this “those who know, know” niche bar has been serving customers in hopes that people would become more familiar with Buddhism.

Inside Vows Bar—a meticulously-constructed interior that invites you into the world of Buddhism.

The bar’s signature cocktail is one that has been inspired by Buddhism. Its name “Gokuraku Jodo” refers to “a world of peace with no suffering.” In addition to Gokuraku Jodo, the bar serves cocktails with very unique names such as “Shakunetsu Jigoku,” which has been named after “Jigoku” (meaning “hell”) in Buddhism, and “Horyuji,” which is Japan’s oldest temple and which has also been registered as a World Heritage site.

The bar’s signature cocktail “Gokuraku Jodo.”

Moreover, the bar is very consistent with its concept, incorporating “shojin ryori,” which is a traditional Buddhist cooking method, into its food menu.

The monks who work as bartenders work at their respective temples during the day, and they show up to the bar at night. They listen to people’s problems not only across the counter, but also at the tables sometimes sitting face to face. While trying to see things from customers’ perspectives, they provide you with many pieces of advice based on Buddhist teachings. They also set up a time for “Hoyo” (meaning “memorial service) in which the monks recite the sutra to wish for the happiness of the deceased, as well as “Howa” (meaning “sermon”) in which they deliver a talk based on Buddhist teachings in such a way that ordinary people can understand them easily.

The “Hitomoji Shakyo” (meaning “one-letter sutra transcription”) in which people take turns and write one letter of the sutra. You should definitely try it when you go there.

They sometimes have live performances of the biwa, a Japanese instrument.

The bar is a three-minute walk from Yotsuya-Sanchome Station on the Marunouchi Line. Upon walking up the stairs of the multi-tenant building, you will arrive there. It is sure to be a rare experience to be able to enjoy a relaxed conversation with a real monk, with a drink in hand. Why not stop by when you visit Japan?

■DATA Vowz Bar Address: AG Bldg. 2F, 6-42 Arakicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo Opening hours: 7 p.m. – 1 a.m. Closed on Sundays and National Holidays Tel. 03-3353-1032 Official website: https://vowz-bar.jp/

(Information as of December 2023.)