Conan the Zen chihuahua prays daily for spritual enlightenment alongside Master Joei Yoshikuni, 29th priest of the Rinzai Zen sect at the Shuri Kannondo Temple, in Naha, on Okinawa Island.
The Shuri Kannondo Temple was built in 1618 by King Sho Kyu of the Ryukyu Islands, in thanksgiving for his son's safe return from Satsuma (Kagoshima) after years on the mainland as a hostage.
The location was a shrine much longer, though. In 1497, Japanese poet Chofuzai was requisitioned by royalty to write a poem in the Chinese style attesting to the beauty of region. The poem was inscribed on the Banze Rei-iki stele, a reconstructioni of which now stands on the Temple grounds.
Initially Conan began this prayerful behavior on his own, without prompting, having observed the monks, and Master Joei reinforced his actions with treats. All the monks encouraged him to meditate in this position quietly so as not to disturb the human monks' meditations.
He always gazes directly at the statue of the Buddhist divinity, for all the world seeming to know exactly what he is doing.
Master Johei said, "Clasping hands is a basic action of Buddhist prayer to show appreciation and he may be showing showing his thanks for treats and walks."
Kazuko Oshiro, at age 71 and a Temple attendee for a quarter of a century, noted that Conan "gets angry when somebody else sits on his favourite spot. He must be thinking that it's his special place."
If you wish to visit the Temple to see Conan, it is open to the public from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m everyday. Avoid the hours of 11:00 to 3:30, which is Conan's never-interrupted rest and nap time.