Japanese Earth Friendly studio by a Certified Kimono Consultant, Kimono Model/Photographer, Edo Tsumami Kanzashi Artisan, and Shinto Priestess.
初穂料・玉串料とは Tradition of Hatsuho-ryō/Tamagushi-ryō money offering
Hatsuho-ryō is a historical and traditional custom throughout Japan at all Shinto shrines, which is to offer Kami the sacred money offerings to present our reverence, respect, awe, and gratitude, when receiving blessings or attending ceremonies (except funerals), or obtaining amulets. The significant concept is that we are offering Hatsuho-ryō to Kami. It is not a direct service fee to clergy. The principle is that Kami later hands down all offerings to clergy for conducting the sacred refined professional deed as "Osagari". Hatsuho-ryō at Kamunabi Ban'yū Ko-Shintō Shrine follows the Japanese standard, and classes/workshop fees are also categorized as Hatsuho-ryō, not as just a class tuition.
The origin of Hatsuho-ryō derived from the Hatsuho offering, the very first ears of rice of the year as an appreciation to Kami, since the Yayoi period by the expansion of Paddy rice cultivation in Japan as the nation being founded. As the time passed to the medieval period, the money-based economy became popular among people with more varieties of professions besides farmers who could harvest the rice ears. Then, the realistic offerings shifted to money from the harvest of the autumn.
Hatsuho-ryō is simply a different form of reverent offering to Kami in this modern society which should be perceived and treated as sacred as the ancient style offerings. This reverent Hatsuho-ryō offering is the sacred outcome of us making effort in working hard in our daily profession, just like the past farmers worked hard to grow rice to harvest Hatsuho.
Same as Hatsuho-ryō, Tamagushi-ryō is a historical and traditional custom throughout Japan at all Shinto shrines, which is to offer Kami the sacred money offerings to present your reverence, respect, awe, and gratitude, when receiving blessings or attending ceremonies including funerals or any unhappy occasion ceremonies, but not used for obtaining amulets.
Tamagushi is an evergreen wishing branch with zigzag lightening Shide paper, to be offered to Kami as a type of Heihaku offering. It is to be offered by the lead clergy, wisher, and other attendees during the ceremony.
The origin of Tamagushi can be found in Japanese mythology when Futodama-no-mikoto offered Ma-Sakaki evergreen branch with Magatama beads and Yata-no-Kagami mirror, in front of the rock cave where Amaterasu-oomikami Sun goddess hid. Tamagushi's role is the object representative of a divine spirit when delivering your prayer.
O-Saisen is a kind of money offering that the general shrine visitors offer into O-Saisen box in front of Haiden praying place, unlike Hatsuho-ryō/Tamagushi-ryō is offered for the official ceremony/blessing when we visit up into Honden main shrine building where divine body is enshrined.
Its history is pretty much the same as Hatsuho-ryō. For the case of O-Saisen, people used to offer the washed rice wrapped in a clean paper or scattered rice in front of Kami called "Sanmai", before the money-based economy became popular.
Today, some people still wrap the money with paper when offering it into an O-Saisen box, because of the background above, not because of treating money as impure. Money offering is nothing different from offering rice as a sacred offering, as it is simply our outcome of working hard in our daily life through our given role to serve the world, just like farmers work hard to harvest the rice.
Japanese mindset towards quality ceremony based on our history and tradition
In Japan, where everything is high quality and polished to the level of refinement, our mindset towards religious/spiritual service is different from the communities which are ostensibly against for any ceremonies, rituals, or heritage education to be "charged" (according to their word) while they are not necessarily maintaining so.
Being a licensed Shinto clergy is a sacred profession which is to serve Kami as a medium between Kami and all living things in this physical world. Only those who undergo technical professional training can be certified and preserve the set standard for the future generations.
Japanese traditionally value and strive for high quality service for anything based on our Dō (way of life) culture, polishing everything to a refined level. Based on Japanese proverb 安かろう悪かろう, "What costs little is little esteemed", Japanese seek for the authentic quality service for everything. It is our cultural/traditional common sense to offer the sacred money offering to be taken care of thoroughly/professionally. Therefore, Japanese do not perceive our money offering tradition as a charge (except the unreasonably expensive Buddhism funerals), but we understand the offering to Kami as to present one's reverence, respect, awe, and gratitude.
Please note that it is simply inappropriate/disrespectful to greedily ask/expect/take it for granted to attend ceremonies/classes for free, meaning you are unwilling to even make a modest effort on presenting your sacred offerings to Kami. Kami are giving us so much everyday, we are to return offerings based on the life cycle of the great nature, instead of keep taking/consuming only. While Rev. Kanawa occasionally reaches people to help out voluntarily when guided by Kami, when they are humbly ready to be helped and have the quality in their spirit, above mentioned is our historical/traditional standard in Japanese culture.
Too precious to be evaluated in monetary value
With aforementioned descriptions of Hatsuho-ryō, Tamagushi-ryō, O-Saisen, please note that the sacred deed of Shinto clergy or teacher has been historically perceived as too precious to be evaluated in monetary value.