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Coins and Cards

A couple of issues that I have mentioned previously also came up in the free responses to the hatsumōdë survey, both connected to practical issues around offerings.

The first is the service charge for depositing coins. Most jinja seem to have failed to find a way around that. Some are simply giving one yen coins (which cost more than one yen to deposit in a bank account) to UNICEF, while others have managed to make arrangements with local shops that cope most of the year, but cannot handle the vast number of coins they get during hatsumōdë. Not only does the service charge exceed the income at some small rural jinja, apparently many banks now have a limit on the number of coins they will take at once, which is a serious problem for jinja. One priest mentioned opening lots of bank accounts to get around this. On the other hand, several priests mentioned that the offerings are not just about money, and that they could not put up signs asking people not to offer one or five yen coins.

(I can, though. If you visit a jinja in Japan, do not offer one or five yen coins. Yes, five yen coins were traditional. Things have changed. Ten yen coins or larger.)

Quite a few people would like Jinja Honchō to do something about this, or at least lobby people to get exceptions to the service charges for religious corporations. I’m not optimistic about that, and part of the reason is the other issue.

Cashless “payments” are still a divisive issue. More jinja have introduced them since last year, and some jinja are very happy with it, saying that it reduces the amount of admin they have to do as well as letting people make offerings without cash. Several priests noted this particularly with respect to foreign tourists, who often have no cash at all. (I know I no longer use cash when I visit the UK, and I have never had any Kazakh cash. I did use euros in Italy, though.) There were a number of comments suggesting that people did not use cashless systems much for the offering box, but that it was more common for omamori or formal prayers.

There are still a lot of people who are opposed, however. Some of them are saying that they will probably have to introduce it anyway, but apparently there are several companies that will not accept any more religious corporations as clients. (That sounds as though they have had legal advice that this is a grey area.) A lot of priests think that it does not really fit with “shinkō”, and there were many calls for Jinja Honchō to decide on a coherent position, and then lobby the Diet to change the law as necessary to make it possible for jinja to use the system. A few people pointed out that it should be possible to make common cause with Buddhist groups on this.

I am sure that priests worried about the suitability of cash offerings when cash was first introduced to Japan (“People should offer rice or cloth!”), so I am also sure that there is a way to resolve this issue. The comments in this survey make it clear that Jinja Honchō needs to move quite quickly to avoid being overtaken by events, however.

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4 thoughts on “Coins and Cards”

  1. If Jinja used cashless systems, it would be far easier for them to provide Ofuda and other Juyohin to overseas practitioners. (I know this is another difficult subject.)

    1. It would indeed. I do have a preference for the way in which this problem is resolved.

      It is worth noting that effectively no-one has theological objections to providing ofuda to overseas practitioners; they have objections to accepting digital offerings and/or shipping ofuda.

  2. If the physical transaction is important, then could Jinja have a cashless system but when praying to the Jinja, Ujiko are given a wooden token that can be tossed into the offering box? Or as you mentioned a small amount of rice or cloth.

    1. My feeling is that something like this is probably the best ultimate solution. It should involve a vending machine, because that is also extremely Japanese. However, the practical issues are substantial, and it really would need Jinja Honchō’s active involvement. I know they are officially thinking about these issues, but I do not think they have reached a conclusion yet.

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