Buddhist temple in Japan
Todai-ji, the head temple of the Kegon school of Buddhism in Japan.wikimedia commons

Japan might see the closure of 40% of its historic Buddhist temples by 2040, according to a report by Japan Policy Council.

Out of the almost 77,000 Buddhist temples in the country, more than 20,000 thousand have no priests and at least 2,000 of them have ceased all religious activities, said Professor Ian Reader, who teaches religious studies at Lancaster University in the UK and is an expert on Japanese culture.

For the last century and a half, the temples have been inherited from father to son; however the new generation is no longer interested in taking the "religion of death" forward.

However, some attempts to put life into the religion, like "vow" bars, have started. A pun on the Japanese word for monk, these are bars run by priests where the customer can have a conversation with a priest over drinks. These have been effective in a very small way but haven't done anything to stop the process of decline, said the professor in an interview to npr.org.

Younger priests have also tried to become involved in social welfare activities, he added.

The religion, which is closely associated to death, has the costliest burial rituals. It is said that apart from buying a house, dying is the most expensive thing in Japan.

The country also follows Shintoism, and the two religions are sometimes simultaneously followed. According to tradition, Shinto shrines are visited during the New Year while Buddhist temples are visited for burial rituals.