The Japanese Temple Stamp book, Go shuin chou

7
134
Japanese Temple Stamp book, Goshuinchou
The Japanese Temple Stamp book (Goshuinchou)
Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

“The honorable red stamp notebook”.

The name itself is so awesome that it actually makes stamp collecting sound cool.

 

Japanese Temple Stamp book, Goshuinchou
The Japanese Temple Stamp book (Goshuinchou)

The Japanese temple book is one of the best kept secrets in Japan. The goshuin, as its called, is a notebook used to collect unique hand drawn calligraphy and stamps from temples and shrines all across Japan. A Monk from the temple, with expert calligraphy skills, will stamp a red design in your book. The stamp is unique to only that place. He then brushes in the name of the temple and date you have visited with black ink and decorative calligraphy.

The paper in the notebook is folded in accordion style pages. like a Japanese shouji screen. When the book is unfolded to reveal all the different temple pages at once, It becomes this beautiful scroll of red and black calligraphy.

You can buy the book at any temple for about 5 US dollars. You then carry it with you to other temples and shrines as you travel around the country. It makes a very cool gift or keepsake of Japan. Much cheaper, artistic, and more genuine than the Hello Kitty toaster you were going to get.

“go shu in chou” is the full name of the book
These are the 4 Kanji you see in the box of the green notebook in the photo.
Its literal translation is:
“The honorable red stamp notebook”.  The name itself is so awesome that it actually makes stamp collecting sound cool.

  • 御 – (go) – Honorific “O” at the beginning of important words. (“O cha” and “O”sushi) In this case pronounced “Go”
  • 朱 – (shu) – Red/Orange Ink. Vermillion (the red color paint you see in temples)
  • 印 – (in) – Stamp
  • 帳 – (chou) – Notebook
Goshuin Sample Page
Goshuin Sample Page

The practice of collecting stamps from temples goes way back in Japanese history. It is directly related to the idea of making pilgrimages to various holy sites like Mt. Fuji and Mt. Koya. As well as circuit pilgrimages like the 88 Holy Sites of Shikoku.

If you get your book from one of the more famous temples in Japan, It will come with a colorful embroidered image of the temple on the cover of the notebook. Some of the more beautiful ones are displayed here. Goshuin Book Covers

As I write about individual temples and shrines that I have been to I will try to display the shuin stamp along with any picture and sketches I make of the place.

 

UPDATE

I have a recent update to the Goshuin chou book covers.  I have found someone who has just acquired the rare Koyasan temple stamp book. The cover is made of cedar wood. You can see it here.

 

 

 

7 COMMENTS

  1. Wow, I love the beautiful book covers. I collected these stamps when I was traveling in Japan about 10 years ago and had so much fun. I have the 4 pages framed on the wall to remind me of that trip.
    I am going to be in Japan in October and would like to do this again. Do you know if I could get a stamp book with a beautiful cover in Tokyo, where I start out or Mt Koya, where I will be staying one night?

    If not, I’ll just get the plain, Jane version of the Shuin Chou.

  2. Thanks for stopping by the blog,

    I did a little research for you and found that the few famous temples in Tokyo don’t really have anything exciting on the cover.

    Meiji Jingu. A shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji (as in the “Meiji Restoration”, The underlying story behind The Last Samurai) does not even have the Meiji seal on it, or a picture of Tom Cruise for that matter!

    Zojo-ji. The temple under Tokyo Tower, Is dedicated to the Tokugawa Shoguns. It has the seal of the Tokugawa family shogunate. which is pretty cool if you are into Japanese History.

    Asakusa, the temple with the the big paper lantern gate that everyone takes their picture under, has Senso-ji temple. I got various results form this temple and it may be your best bet for something interesting. I could not find a consistent picture of the cover of its shuin chou. Which usually means they have a few to choose from.

    My research also revealed something very interesting. Supposedly Koya-san has a very rare Goshuinchou. It is a temple book with its covers made out of the sacred wood form the Koya Forest, or trees form the Kii Mountains. I have no pictures of it but the information kept showing up in searches. With my language skills being pushed to the test and my Japanese friends helping me out, I was not able to produce anything but people saying that it exists.

    If you find out anything about this when you are there, please let me know, send me an email anytime.