UTSUNOMIYA, TOCHIGI PREF. – As Japanese businesses slowly move toward adopting cashless payments, some temples and shrines are beginning to follow suit for donations.
Yet worshippers are divided by the move by religious institutions, with some still shunning the method, saying they feel it will bring them worse luck.
Kaigen Temple in Fukuchiyama, Kyoto Prefecture, last year started to use the smartphone service PayPay to receive offerings.
The temple later received a lot of attention after it introduced what it called a “cloud visit” in the busy year-end period.
Many Japanese visit temples and shrines at the beginning of the year and throw coins into an offertory box as they give thanks for guidance in the previous year and wish for good luck in the year ahead.
The so-called cloud visit enables people to pay a virtual visit to the temple and make monetary offerings through QR codes sent from its top 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 the offertory box, he said.
Byodo Temple in Tokushima Prefecture — one of the famed spots on the 88-temple Shikoku Pilgrimage — also introduced a mobile payment service late last year.
Several years ago, Atago Shrine in Tokyo’s Minato Ward began accepting offerings via Rakuten Inc.’s Edy during the New Year’s season.
But many visitors still feel uncomfortable offering e-money, according to Nikko Futarasan Shrine, a World Heritage site in Tochigi Prefecture.
It started accepting offerings through PayPay in early February, but most worshippers still headed for its offertory box, saying the act of throwing coins into it has a special meaning for them.
Even Kaigen Temple now receives few e-money offerings: “The upsurge was temporary,” Shibahara said.
“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.”