Atago Shrine in Minato Ward, central Tokyo, accepted electronic money offerings on Wednesday from visitors not carrying coins when praying during New Year’s visits.
In 2014, after an offer from online shopping mall operator Rakuten Inc., the shrine conducted a one-day trial for offerings of Rakuten’s Edy e-money on Jan. 4.
This year, too, the shrine placed a device on Wednesday to accept e-money alongside the wooden box into which people usually throw coins or bills as offerings.
When visitors entered the amount of money and passed their Edy cards or smartphones over the device, jingling sounds were heard as a sign of successful payment.
Koichiro Naruse, a 46-year-old company executive who used the system, said that he doesn’t normally use coins. Stressing that e-money “is the same money,” Naruse predicted that “the wider use of e-money for offerings is likely,” as it helps shrines to save trouble.
Rie Matsuoka, a 50-year-old official of the shrine, said that many worshipers do not have cash partly because the shrine is located in central Tokyo.
The shrine decided to introduce the e-money system on a trial basis due to worries about thefts of offerings and the reduced willingness of banks to accept coins, Matsuoka said.
“We expect to receive some criticism, but originally money donations were made rather than such offerings as rice and fish,” Matsuoka explained. “We therefore think advanced e-money can also be a donation option.”
Meanwhile, ¥5 coins, often used as money offerings to pray for happiness because the coin’s Japanese pronunciation of “go en” is the same as that of the word for a fated connection, are becoming less common every year.
According to a Bank of Japan survey, the number of ¥5 coins in circulation came to some 10.8 billion in November 2016, down 14 percent from the peak at the end of 1999. The wider use of e-money is believed to be one cause of the declining demand for minor coins.