“The honorable red stamp notebook”.
The name itself is so awesome that it actually makes stamp collecting sound cool.
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
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.
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.