Dec 31, 2017

A souvenir with meaning

I was sitting with my husband, watching something on tv when a commercial came up. Two girls were traveling around having a good old time with this book. They were visiting different shrines and temples collecting bright red stamps and signatures in it. My interest instantly peeked. So I looked into it, "go-shuin".

I have always loved visiting the different shrines and temples around Japan. The architecture and placement of most of them are absolutely breathtaking. But I never really had a reason to go out and look for shrines. I would usually just stumble across them or visit some when on a mini vacation or something. At the same time, a friend living here for only a year was invited to visit a shrine by her elderly neighbor and happened to purchase one of the books, starting her on a go-shuin stamp collecting adventure. This book made the perfect excuse to go shrine hopping with the friend of mine.

A souvenir with meaning photo

Go-shuin seal stamps were most likely originally receipts for visitors who had completed copying the sutra from that temple, part of the process for reaching nirvana. Now, they are offered at many temples and shrines across Japan to visitors with donations of about 300 yen accepted in exchange. You are not, however, purchasing the stamps. Instead, you are receiving them for your good deed of visiting the shrine and should be thankful by giving a donation.

Each shrine has its own personal shuin, and some offer special stamps only during certain times, like festivals or holidays specific to that god at that shrine.A souvenir with meaning photo

    The autumn leaves festival at Hotokuji Shirne

A souvenir with meaning photo
    Fall festival is the only time you can get this particular stamp at Hotokuji

A souvenir with meaning photo

    They are unbound, meaning they are opened like accordions

The books themselves run about 1,500 to 2,000 yen and can be purchased from shrines or big department store bookshops.

They are meant for pilgrimages, so are perfectly designed for travelers and great gifts to keep from a trip to Japan.

Please be aware that this isn't just mere stamp collecting. For many, it is a religious experience. Be respectful. Some of the smaller shrines may not even allow “stamp collectors" to receive the go-shuin because they may think you are doing it for frivolous reasons. Others may be thrilled and go out of their way to help you receive your stamp. However, in most places, they are happy and excited to share and spread the joy that comes with collecting the different stamps, respecting each different god with a special place in your own personal book. It is a symbol of your visit and of having paid respects to that shrine or temple. This is why you can receive it. If it doesn't conflict with your own personal beliefs, it is a great way to appreciate the way many Japanese people worship, and a fantastic souvenir to show family back home of all the places you visited while here. My friend is in her last two weeks from her year-long adventure, and there are only a few pages left in her book. Just a few more shrines or temples to visit before she leaves the land of the rising sun, but she has already collected so many memories. It really has been a great adventure searching for all the places we could go to help fill her book.

I'm going to miss having her around but hopefully, she will be able to bring a bit of the grandeur of Japan back with her and remember just how close to the gods she was while here.



American step mom with beautiful Brazilian babies. Raising them in Japan. I'm a crafter too