Deadprogrammer Visits Japan Part III : Monk Money
Money-making schemes are a on my mind a lot lately, so here’s a little bit about ingenious schemes by which Japanese monks are raising money.
As I don’t have much understanding of Buddhism and Shinto, Japanese temples did not leave much impression upon me. After a while, they all started to look alike. One common element was the fundraising gimmicks used by the monks which I found rather ingenious.
First up, there’s omikuji, literally “sacred lottery.” You deposit a 100 yen (about $1) coin in a slot (on an honor system), shake a metal container with wooden stick marked with a hieroglyph (probably a number), match it up to a drawer and take out a sheet of paper. The fortunes contain a variety of outcomes, from blessing – dai-kichi (now I know what Daikichi Sushi restaurants are named after:), through lesser forchunes such as near-small-blessing, sue-shÅ-kichi, and to great curse – dai-kyÅ.
The genius of the system is that if you don’t like your fortune, you can tie it on special pine planks (according to Wikipedia it’s a pun – “pine tree” is “matsu” and “to wait” is “matsu”). Then you can try again.
Somewhere, I think it was near Ryoan-ji Temple I encountered this attraction. A little statue of a deity with a little bowl next to it. From what I understand, you need to throw a coin into the bowl for good luck. As you can see, it’s not too easy. My wife managed to get a 5 yen coin in though.
Here are temple workers collecting the bounty. They even have little bamboo rakes!
Then there’s Zeniarai Benten Shrine, where you can rent a special basket to wash your money is an underground spring, that is supposed to double your money. I hope washing a banking card works too :)
I’d like to finish this with a little news item that I pulled from Mainichi news: Man who stole 2 yen from shrine sentenced to 22 months behind bars. A yen is about 1 cent. Pretty rough, eh? Well, the article goes on to say that he also stole some batteries…