The survey of priests’ experiences of hatsumōdë that I discussed last time also covered a couple of issues related to money: the service charge on depositing coins, and cashless payments. These are both serious issues for jinja, and both become more pressing around hatsumōdë.
The new bank charges for depositing coins have had a large impact. A number of jinja reported finding a lot of small-denomination coins in the offering boxes this year, and reasonably concluded that people had decided that, rather than depositing them and paying the charges, they would offer them to the jinja. Of course, that just gave the jinja the problem. Because the service charge is more than one yen per coin, one yen coins are a serious problem. Some jinja are just piling them up while they try to think of a good way to deal with them, while others have put up signs to explain the issue. Those signs are apparently quite effective, greatly reducing the number of one yen coins in the box.
Other jinja are paying the chief priest in small change, and the priests are using the coins to pay for their food shopping at the local supermarket. For smaller jinja, this might well be an effective way to get around the issue, at least until the local supermarket goes cashless. At least one jinja has changed the offering for fortunes from ¥100 to ¥150, so that they can use ten yen coins to give change.
I mentioned in a previous post that some jinja were swapping coins with local shops, who could thus avoid the service charges for getting change. It seems that a number of jinja have tried that, but it doesn’t always work out very well. Some areas do not have enough shops, and the vast number of coins received during hatsumōdë exceeds the demand in most locations. Even when it works well, it requires a lot of effort by the priests, and some of them reported feeling like they were doing a bank’s job. In one case, the only benefit the priest reported was that they could listen to local people’s complaints.
This issue is clearly causing significant problems for jinja, and quite a few people called on Jinja Honchō, or the Shinto establishment more broadly, to do something about it. I haven’t seen any sign of that yet, but perhaps it will happen.
The responses about cashless payments were much more varied. Some jinja are quite positive about using them, and indeed have already introduced them. Other priests are strongly opposed, because they think that the absence of a physical offering undermines the religious significance of the act. Still other jinja wanted to introduce it, but ran into the legal problems I mentioned in an earlier post, and were unable to use the systems they were investigating. Quite a lot of people called for Jinja Honchō to look into the issue as a body, and provide official guidance and support for jinja. As several people pointed out, smaller jinja simply cannot address this issue by themselves — the priest has neither the time nor the training to do so.
One interesting comment from a priest who was opposed to using such systems was that a cashless payment cannot be placed before the kami in the jinja. From a religious perspective, that is a very good point, although there are ways around it. For example, when people give land to a jinja, a record of what has been given is placed before the kami. But it is true that something physical is normally placed before the kami, and so this needs to be considered when looking at cashless offerings.
These are obviously important and immediately pressing issues for jinja, and so we will see action on them. I hope that the action will be well-considered and coordinated, but that, alas, is not guaranteed.