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Paying Dues

All jinja that are affiliated with Jinja Honchō have to pay annual dues. I am not sure how much they are, but they are significant, because Jinja Honchō has an annual budget of around ¥5 billion, which would make the average contribution per jinja about ¥60,000, or $600. Bear in mind that this includes tiny jinja out in rural areas with no income. The average contribution per priest is about ¥250,000, or about $2,500.

When jinja are struck by a crisis, the dues to Jinja Honchō have the potential to become a serious burden. In the past, Jinja Honchō tended to ignore this, but after the Great East Japan Earthquake, in 2011, they agreed a substantial cut to the contributions from the three prefectures most badly affected.

That set the precedent for the current crisis. Many jinja have seen a substantial drop in their income due to the pandemic, and Jinja Honchō suspended payments of contributions for this financial year, which started on July 1st, while a committee debated the appropriate response. That committee has now reported, and its recommendations were published on the front page of Jinja Shinpō.

The (literal) headline news is that this year’s contributions will be cut by 30%. (Assuming that Jinja Honchō decides to follow its committee’s advice, which seems likely.) As part of this, the special measures for the prefectures affected by the earthquake will end, and they will just get the reduction that is being applied to all prefectures. (An exception will be made for Fukushima, as parts of that prefecture are still closed after the nuclear accident, but it will be a specific response to that issue, rather than a general policy for the whole prefecture.)

The committee also acknowledged that the pandemic is unlikely to be fully resolved by the end of this financial year, and recommended that the cut in dues be extended for three years, with the amount decided based on the situation. They suggest a cap of a full year’s dues cut over the three years.

The committee also recommended that Jinja Honchō look at how it could use some special budgets, set aside for disaster relief and Honchō’s 75th anniversary celebrations next year. They added a supplementary recommendation that Jinja Honchō look into providing financial assistance to jinja.

I have a personal interest in these discussions, as I am employed by Jinja Honchō, and there is a risk of my job being cut if Honchō has to make savings. In particular, as I am working on their handling of foreign tourists, of whom there are none at the moment, I fear I might be an obvious centre for savings. We shall see what happens.

It is possible to argue about whether a 30% cut is enough under the circumstances, but it is clear that it is significant; Jinja Honchō cannot be accused of ignoring the financial problems. Nevertheless, I suspect that this crisis will provoke serious discussion of what Jinja Honchō is for, and what the jinja get for their dues. That would be no bad thing.

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