What are Japanese prayer beads?

Hello everyone in the English-speaking world,

Are you interested in Japanese Buddhism? I’m not a monk, but I’m involved in the production of prayer beads (also known as “nenju” or “juzu”). Through this blog, I aspire to convey the allure of Japanese prayer beads to all of you in the English-speaking community.

“Prayer beads” are highly valued items for Buddhists, originally used as counting tools. They served a purpose similar to the Catholic Rosary. In Japan, Buddhism has diversified, with the current existence of 13 different sects. Even today, prayer beads are used when reciting the names of Buddhas, though some sects do not emphasize counting. Nevertheless, the tradition of holding prayer beads when focusing on the Buddha endures.

Why do we use prayer beads, you might wonder? This is my personal perspective: Our daily lives are often filled with worldly desires, jealousy towards others, and a lack of shame in pursuing those desires. Therefore, even during those special moments when we turn our hearts to the Buddha, we use prayer beads to distinguish between our ordinary existence and sacred time.