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Haitai Teachings

What are the 9 Rules of a Moai?

by Christal Burnette 03 Apr 2024 0 Comments


What is a Moai?

Have you ever heard of "moai"? No, not the Moai statues on Easter Island. Everyone from Okinawa knows what a moai is. Moai is, in a nutshell, "the common people's finance" and it has been around on the island for a long time.
In Okinawa, it is common to get together at a bar or restaurant (or bar-restaurant known as an 'izakaya' [ee-zuh-kah-yah] in Japan) with like-minded friends or family every month and pass around money to those friends or family. Pass around money? No, this is not a pyramid scheme. Let me explain how it works first.
Every month, A, B, C, D, and E get together. They all pay $100 except A, who is receiving the money this month. A receives $400 that month. The next month, B is going to receive the money so everyone except B gives $100 and B receives $400 that month. 
A moai has two purposes. One purpose is to support a member of the group that month who may be having a rough time financially. If no one is in any particular bad situation, then it is decided amongst members who will be the lucky one to receive the money that month. A moai's other purpose is for close friends or family to get together on a regular basis, catch up, give support, and create close connections.
Many of us know how easy it is to lose touch with friends or classmates with that we were once so close. Well, the Okinawans know one of the top keys to longevity is social connections, but there must be a trick to maintaining them in a fun way where everyone complies. No 'maybe next month' or 'I do not feel like going out tonight'. The moai has rules and attendance is one of them.
ojiisans old men moai eating and drinking 

The History of Moai

I was told personally by a 90-year-old Okinawan, Kinjo-san, how moais were held back in the day. People who had similar jobs would get together every month, for example, all the village farmers would get together. They already did the same job but may have different advice for each other or one farmer may have found a good planting trick that he can share with everyone else. This allowed the moai to be a place where advice, support, and fun conversation could take place among like-minded friends.
Typhoons are common in Okinawa. A typhoon is a strong tropical storm that can become very powerful and destroy crop fields which even occurs to this day. The farmer who grows beni-imo sweet potatoes was growing his crops in a field that fell victim to flooding due to the storm. His field was mostly wiped out and he will not have anything to sell this month. He would have a tough time feeding his family, but he knows he can rely on his friends in his moai. He attends the moai that month and explains his situation. Everyone agrees and sympathizes with him that he is in the worst position this month so they all agree that he receives the money that month.
He leaves the moai feeling better that he has a financial net to fall back on while getting advice from other farmers on how to repair his field and prevent flooding next time. He also had a good time drinking and talking with friends until late at night. His stress levels are lower and he is feeling more positive for the next day. He is much more motivated to fix his situation instead of moping around.

The Types of Moai

You can make a moai with friends, classmates, owners of companies, or even housewives who gather at lunchtime and drink tea.
The good thing is you do not have to be bound by territory or blood ties to hold a moai.
Some moais are for both financial and teaching benefits. There is an example of a man named Oshiro-san who does a young business owners moai. A group of business owners in their 30s and 40s gather every month and pay 10,000 yen (or $100) every gathering. He even goes as far as to rent a hotel meeting room and give a small lecture or seminar on business and then everyone drinks and eats. Whoever is the instructor that month gets the money so it is like a reward or payment for doing the lecture. Oshiro-san spoke of other moais he has heard of where older business owners in their 50s or 60s would have a monthly charge of 200,000 yen each month (or $2,000). For example, if the number of members in the moai is 10 and you are the one who receives the money that month then you get 10 x $2000 = $20,000!! Some people raise money for new business ventures that way...
In some ways, a moai can be seen as a safety net. Saving those who are having a tough time that month but not just financially. Social bonds are the most important in a moai and meeting with close companions can brighten your mood and save you mentally which is most important.
okinawan obaasans grandmas afternoon moai  
You might think 'Can't I just put $100 in my piggy bank once a month and then break it open when my car breaks down?' Yes, you can, we all do some sort of saving every month, don't we. Giving money to your peers is different. The act of handing over the paper to your close friend is a mental image of help and giving. When you receive from your friend that piece of paper you see and feel grateful and thankful. Your friends are there right in front of you also giving you a feeling of accountability. If you depend on only yourself to put money in the piggy bank every month, you might blow it off sometimes and no one will be holding you accountable. Being a part of a community is an important key.
handing over money feeling grateful  

9 Absolute Rules of a Moai

1. Create a moai with those who you trust

Of course, there is the possibility of one member taking all the money that month and then never answering your calls or showing up to a meeting ever again. Humans can be like that. That is why you must make a moai with members you trust!

2. Attending is mandatory unless you cannot come by all means

Do not blow it off! Other members are there waiting for you and holding you accountable. If you are going to join a moai you must be an active member otherwise do not say you will join.

3. If you cannot attend you still have to pay the money

Something unavoidable pops up and life understandably happens (i.e. car accident, emergency family trip). However, no matter what happened you have to pay. No one is exempt from paying that month except the receiver of the money. You must give your contribution twice the next time by giving one portion to last month's receiver and one portion to that month's receiver. You can also hand over your money to a member beforehand so that member can hand it over on your behalf.

4. The drinking and eating fee are paid separately

It is not taken out of the money given to the receiver that month. Some restaurants or bars you meet at may be more expensive than the previous month. You do not want the receiver that month to receive less than others due to the change in the restaurant.

5. It is always on the same day every month

For example, the second Monday of every month. Do not set a specific number since that could fall on a weekend or weekday that does not work for everyone's schedule. If it is a set day such as Monday (i.e. everyone does not have work meetings on Monday night) and a number of the week everyone can follow such as the second week's Monday (because the last week's Monday of the month some members are busy wrapping up the work month) than it is easier for everyone to attend. If the second Monday happens to fall on a holiday, feel free to change the date to the second Tuesday or third Monday that month if everyone agrees.

6. The person who receives the money that month is the manager that month

They must reserve the dinner spot, help place orders while eating, etc. If it is the business owners moai, the speaker that month decides the hotel or restaurant where he holds the lecture and where everyone will eat and drink after.

7. It is NOT decided who will receive the money every month

You are allowed to have a set loop of who will receive next if all members do not mind what the receiving order is. However, if someone is in a dire situation, they take precedence.

8. Once a person receives the money it is encouraged that they do not receive it again until all other members have received once

You do not want one member to receive this month and also be asking for money the next month and the next month... This will break trust and burden the other members. Tough times happen to everyone but try to receive once and give everyone else a chance. During extreme times, that person may receive again before the receiving loop is completed if all members agree.

9. You attend with the intention to deepen bonds and share stories or knowledge depending on the moai’s goal

Do not become a part of the moai if you hate someone or want to keep to yourself. If you agreed to join the business owners moai, you know your turn to lecture in front of everyone will come. You cannot be afraid to speak in front of your audience. During the time you eat, drink, and talk with everyone do not block yourself off from others. Open up and create close social bonds. Those social connections could last a lifetime and most certainly contribute to your long life and health.
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