Photo/IllutrationChildren pursue their studies under candlelight. (Provided by JOICFP)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

KYOTO--Hundreds of Buddhist temples have joined forces to shed light in darker areas of Asia by shipping more than 100,000 used ceremonial candles to children in impoverished nations.

The candles still have hours of life in them, but there is no demand for them in Japan.

Kobori Inc., a Japanese manufacturer and supplier of Buddhist accessories in the city’s Shimogyo Ward, is behind the initiative that has involved hundreds of temples over the years, mainly of the pure land Buddhism sect.

In June, 7,800 or so partially used candles from 169 temples were packed into 69 cardboard boxes and trucked to Yokohama Port, where they were to be shipped for distribution to needy children in Afghanistan by the nongovernmental Japanese Organization for International Cooperation in Family Planning (JOICFP).

Traditional Japanese candles used at Buddhist temples are generally thicker than European-style ones, and also tend to have thicker wicks, which means they produce a larger flame which is unlikely to flicker and go out in a draft.

During Buddhist ceremonies held to commemorate the dead, candles are lit for no longer than an hour, leaving about 80 percent of the sticks unburned. They are not reused.

The donation program started after a temple consulted Kobori in 2004, which also sells candles. The company sought to find a way to recycle used candles as it is “wasteful” to simply throw them away when they are still perfectly usable.

The company came up with the idea of shipping the used candles to developing countries with unstable power supplies for reuse as a daily light source.

In the 15 years since then, the company has shipped in excess of 100,000 candles from temples across Japan to Afghanistan, Nepal, Cambodia, Myanmar and other poor nations.

According to the NGO, many residents of farming villages or impoverished communities can barely afford kerosene or lamps.

The candles are treasured by the children who receive the donations.

Tadashi Kobori, 67, the 11-generation president of Kobori, said the charity aspect of shipping used candles to poor children overseas "is also an opportunity for us to practice Buddhist idea of compassion," adding that he hoped to "continue (the charity) for as long as possible.”