Feb 28, 2019
UTSUNOMIYA, Japan - With a slowly rising move toward cashless payments in Japan, some temples are now accepting electric-money offerings.
Yet the move has divided opinion, with some worshippers still shunning the method, saying they feel it will bring them less good fortune.
Kaigen temple in the city of Fukuchiyama, Kyoto Prefecture, last year started to use Japanese smartphone service PayPay to receive offerings.
The temple then gained wide attention by introducing what it called a "cloud visit" in the year-end period.
This time of year is when many Japanese visit temples and shrines, and throw coins into an offering box, as they give thanks for guidance in the passing year and wish for good luck in the new one.
The "cloud visit" enables people to pay a virtual visit to the temple and make money offerings through QR codes sent from its chief priest via Twitter.
"Many people were amused (by the new system) and offered money online," said Mitsuhiro Shibahara, 39, chief priest of the temple. Such payments amounted to about 10 times more than the cash put into an offering box, he said.
Byodo temple in Tokushima Prefecture, western Japan -- one of the famed pilgrimage spots on the 88-temple "Shikoku Henro" route -- also introduced late last year a mobile payment service provided by a major carrier, NTT Docomo Inc.
Several years ago, Atago shrine in Tokyo's Minato Ward began accepting offerings via Rakuten Inc's Edy during the New Year season.
But many visitors still feel uncomfortable offering e-money, according to Nikko Futarasan shrine, a World Heritage site in Tochigi Prefecture, north of Tokyo.
It started accepting offerings through PayPay early February, but most worshippers headed for its offering box, saying the act of throwing coins itself has a meaning to them.
Even Kaigen temple now receives few e-money offerings. "The upsurge was temporary," said Shibahara.
"Currently, people are talking about its novelty rather than its convenience," said Yuki Fukumoto, a chief researcher at the NLI Research Institute.
"If cashless payments become more common, then e-money offerings will be chosen as the more natural option someday."
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