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Home » 4. Jinja (Shrines) » Offerings and Talismans
Saisen
A type of offering to kami and buddhas, originally given on the occasion of a visit of gratitude for the fulfillment of a prayer. Nowadays the term has the meaning of a monetary gift offered as an expression of prayer or reverence at temples and shrines. Differing from the offerings made at fixed rituals, saisen is typically offered by individuals on the occasion of irregular visits for the purpose of making personal entreaties to the kami. Historically these offerings consisted of rice scattered before the kami (sanmai), or a small amount of rice enclosed in a twisted paper, called ohineri. With the spread of a currency economy from the late medieval period, and the increasing practice of making pilgrimages (sankei) to distant temples and shrines, metallic currency took the place of rice in the form of "tossed coin" (sansen) offerings. An entry from the Tenbun era (1532-1555) in the diary of the Intendant (bettō) of the Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine notes that an "offering box for tossed coins" (sansenbako) was placed before the shrine. In the Edo period, "tossed coins" sansen) was changed to "offering coins" (saisen). Such changes, however, were primarily an urban phenomenon, and the custom of offering rice continued for a long time at provincial temples and shrines. Since the change to cash money, these offerings have become a significant element of shrine economics, and the offerings at New Years shrine visits (hatsumōde) alone amount to a considerable sum.

-Suzuki Kentarō
offering box for coins (saisenbako)

Nara Prefecture, 2005

©Tsujimura Shinobu

Worshippers throwing coins into the offertory bet at Asakusa Shrine.

Tokyo, 2005

©Ōsawa Kōji

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