The Goshuincho 御朱印帳
Seal journal of pilgrimage
Goshuincho is an essential piece of Japanese culture for religious or entertainment purposes. Composed of several sheets of paper assembled like an accordion, this small notebook allows you to collect the official seals of the temples and sanctuaries you visit. Goshuincho makes an excellent souvenir as a reminder of your pilgrimage!
A lucky notebook
A small booklet in which you collect the official seals of temples and shrines visited in Japan; the goshuincho is much more than a simple collection notebook.
Official seals of places of worship, goshuin (or ''seal'' in Japanese), are composed of a red stamp and calligraphy specific to each holy site. The latter is made by a monk or an employee of the temple in Indian ink and indicates the place's name, the date of visit, and a small blessing supposed to bring good luck to the notebook's owner.
Indeed, the goshuincho would also have protective virtues! And many Japanese see it as a way to achieve personal charm and a more touristy way to collect stamps from temples and shrines across the land.
To read: The lucky charms of Japanese temples
Although goshuincho are very popular in Japan, the origin of the custom is rather vague. And it is very difficult to say precisely when goshuin's first collections date back to. Mainly since, in the past, seals were not used by pilgrims but by religion to certify an official document.
The goshuincho is a strong tradition today as proof of pilgrimage; the notebook is a popular souvenir!
Where to buy a goshuincho?
You can get a goshuincho directly in the temples and sanctuaries you visit and in large bookstores.
The price then varies depending on the paper's thickness and the notebook's design. There is something for everyone! Bright, plain, or patterned, the cover of the goshuincho is personal.
Count between 1,000 and 2,000 yen (between $8.50-17/7.75-15€) on average to obtain your notebook.
Searching for seals
Once you have your goshuincho in your pocket, you can look for the seals!
Many places of worship have an official seal that can be obtained at the temple shop, where lucky charms are sold. The latter costs 300 yen on average ($2.50/2.25€), and the Japanese have a habit of asking for it once the visit to the temple or sanctuary is over.
Lasting a few minutes, obtaining the seal does not require knowledge of Japanese to be carried out.
Indeed, most shrines have their blessing and do not require goshuincho owners to choose their charms. However, in the country's most famous temples and shrines, you may sometimes have to choose between several blessings. A choice which is, in reality, not as tricky as it seems since these places of worship are very popular with tourists generally have an English translation of their lucky little phrases.
See also: Hanko, the Japanese seal.
Be careful, however, not to be in too much of a hurry to obtain your seal!
Indeed, the collection of seals is a prevalent practice among the Japanese. And some people sometimes even have several goshuinchô that they organize according to specific themes (for example, they will have a notebook for the Inari shrines, another specially dedicated to the Shikoku pilgrimage, etc.). In busy periods, it is therefore not uncommon to have to queue in front of the temple shop to complete your goshuincho. Be patient with your pain!
Finally, if you forget your notebook on the day of your visit, ask to receive the seal on a small calligraphy sheet. You can then paste it into your known goshuinchô ni buni.
The collection of seals is very addictive! And once launched, it is tough to stop until the notebook is complete. Therefore, the goshuincho is an ideal souvenir to bring back from Japan for all who plan to complete their collection on each trip.