A few weeks ago, I mentioned that most banks in Japan had introduced significant transaction fees for the deposit of coins, and that this was likely to have an impact on jinja. This issue was clearly of concern to the people at Jinja Shinpō, because when they sent out the hatsumōdë survey that I discussed last week, they also included a question about this problem. They got a wide range of responses. (Incidentally, a couple of weeks ago, a few days after the results were published, NHK did a short piece about the problem on their morning news program. I suspect someone at NHK read the Jinja Shinpō article.)
As you might expect, the basic responses covered the full range from “the banks get to decide this sort of thing, so we will just have to live with it” to “someone should do something about it”. There were calls for the Shinto establishment to lobby to get the rules changed but, as one respondent pointed out, the transaction charges are being imposed by individual banks, not by the government, so it is not clear whom to lobby. There were also a lot of more specific responses, and many of these were interesting.
Quite a few of the priests felt that it was wrong for part of the money that people had chosen to offer to the kami to go to the bank in transaction fees. This is also one of the concerns that priests have about cashless offerings, so if the new regulations remove one of the differences, it might accelerate the push towards cashless methods. Opinions are still split on the matter, however, with quite a few priests wanting to see guidance or leadership from Jinja Honchō. On the one hand, the way people show reverence to the kami has changed in the past, and will doubtless change further in the future. On the other, there is, according to some priests, religious meaning in placing a physical coin in the offertory box. I suspect that we will see more discussion of the theological background to this issue.
Some of the practical responses were interesting. Some priests were taking small numbers of coins at once, to avoid the charges. Others had formed agreements with local shops. The shops were facing problems with the transaction charges for converting notes into coins, so that they could make change. There was, therefore, an obvious way to solve both sides’ problems at once. Another priest said, “There is no transaction charge for paying taxes in coins, so we will use them for that”. That might provoke a government response…
Several priests were concerned that they shouldn’t complain too much about it, because people might criticise them for complaining when they didn’t have to pay tax. Of course, there are complications — jinja did not qualify for the support for small businesses during the pandemic, either.
And then there was the priest who said, “Our jinja is on an island, so depositing the offerings has always been a real problem”.