What is go-shu-in (御朱印)?
Goshuin is a part of Japanese religious culture and it dates back centuries. Originally, goshuin were hand-copied Buddhist sutras given as a thank you to worshipers who had donated hand-written prayer scrolls to temples.
御 (go) – An honorific marker, “o” or “go”, is added at the beginning of certain words to show respect.
朱 (shu) – Red/orange ink that is the same vermilion color that you often see at Shinto shrines.
印 (in) – Stamps that are usually hand carved by the priests who live at the temple or shrine.
The literal translation of goshuin is “the honorable red stamp”.
For a long time, goshuin collecting was just for the religious or done as an older person’s hobby. Nowadays, it has become popular among young people who seek out rare stamps and calligraphy from Japanese shrines and temples in various parts of the country. Goshuin can be purchased by anyone and everyone who visits a shrine or a temple. And It’s said once you fill your goshuin-chou, happiness will find you.
If you plan to visit many temples and shrines in Japan, I recommend that you get a goshuin-cho – a special stamp collecting book – with pages inside folded like an accordion. It holds around 30 stamps. When the book is full, you can open it into one long, continuous collection of stamps and calligraphy!
The books costs about 1,000 yen and each stamp is about 300 yen. You can buy plain ones at many stores, Buddhist or Shinto related shops, or stationary shops in Japan. Some temples and shrines offer special books with finely decorated covers.
At each temple or shrine, a priest first imprints the elaborate carved stamp of the temple in your goshuin-cho.
Next, the priest inscribes the name of the temple or shrine, the date of your visit, and any additional prayers or symbols. This is all done in a steady hand using fine calligraphy brushes .
The process of collecting goshuin stamps can be fun. Foreign visitors rarely collect goshuin, so it’s a wonderful opportunity for you to take part in Japanese culture during your stay in Japan.