Japanese shrine accepts digital offerings

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A Shinto shrine in the Japanese city of Toyama has started using a cashless payment service to receive New Year donations with digital money.

For many Japanese people, it is a custom to visit a shrine during the New Year holidays. They toss money into a donation box and offer prayers.

Ecchuinari Shrine in Toyama has introduced the new payment system, which was launched by a regional bank headquartered in the city this month.

Using a smartphone app called "J-Coin Pay," worshippers can scan a QR code displayed at the side of the donation box and enter the amount of money they want to offer.

The shrine says it introduced the system to eliminate the use of cash and promote a "new normal" to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The shrine also removed ladles at its stone basin. Worshippers usually share them to scoop water from the basin to purify their hands and rinse their mouths.

The shrine also says it will remove the bell hung with a thick rope above the donation box. People usually shake the rope to ring the bell before offering prayers.

A shrine official said deities know everything and they receive people's wishes even if they donate with digital money. He says he thought the digitalization of donations was necessary amid the pandemic.

An official of the regional bank says he wants more shrines and temples to use the service. He says he wants people to try "clean donations" without touching cash during the New Year holidays.

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