YAMAGATA - Along with his job as the 33rd chief priest of the Toshoji temple of the Soto Buddhism sect in Nagai, Yamagata Prefecture, Takuya Ono takes care of his three children aged 12, 8 and 5 as a full-time househusband.
His wife, who works as a researcher in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, lives separately from her family.
As Ono, 41, does all the housework, including cooking, he became well known as the "ikumen" chief priest from about a year ago. Ikumen is a recently coined Japanese word for fathers who actively take part in raising children.
When he is invited as a lecturer to local meetings of parents and guardians or on other occasions, the priest of the temple established in the Muromachi period (1336-1573) talks about his feelings and the joy of raising children.
Since he was married 13 years ago, Ono has been actively participating in housework. At that time, the family lived in Tsukuba, near his wife's office, so Ono needed to travel about 230 kilometers to Nagai every time he had a Buddhist memorial service.
"I was an unreliable househusband who needed to rush to a funeral whenever there was one," Ono recalled.
Shortly before his eldest daughter entered primary school, he decided to move to Nagai to live with his children at his mother's house.
At a lecture he holds almost every month, he tells people that child raising is a kind of ascetic training.
He has been through some hard times, he says, such as when his baby's nighttime crying often woke him up. "But none of my children wear a diaper any more. When you get used to it, it becomes fun. It is like Buddhist training," Ono said with a laugh.
"I want even fathers who have barely any free time to spend with their children to start with something they can do in a short time. I'm sure children can sense fathers' feelings," he said.