What is Goshuin?
Goshuin can be received by visitors in Buddhist Temples and Shinto Shrines. It is a large stamp, written in ink that proves your visit to a particular temple.
Shuin is often called "goshuin", "go" being a Japanese honorific prefix.
The style of shuin is different in every temple. Usually, it is the temple’s priest or kannushi who writes in ink the temple’s name, name of the deity and date of visit.
It is different from so-called "tourist stamp", that is offered in most tourist destinations.
The origins of shuin
There are many legends regarding the origins of shuin; unfortunately, there is no official explanation.
Normally, shuin is given to those who bring a piece of paper with their wish and donate a sutra (shakyo).
Shakyo means a copy of Buddhist sutra. It is considered beneficial for believers to make a sutra as it becomes training for monks and helps people to achieve Nirvana.
Goshuin of Komine Shrine (Kanto Region, Tochigi Prefecture) Wikipedia / Creative Commons
Although some temples don’t give you a stamp unless you donate a sutra, most temples will be happy to give you one for free.
Usually, among Japanese, elderly people and pious people obtain shuin.
However, recently it has also become popular among people in their 20s and 30s. There is an expression "Goshuin girl" which means a young woman, obsessed with shuin.
Foreign tourists see the bright dynamic vermillion color as something uniquely Japanese, which makes it a popular souvenir.
Goshuin-cho (shuin notebook)
Goshuin-cho is a special notebook that you can obtain at a temple.
It is also called "shuin-cho"; normally, honorific suffix "go" is added in order to show respects to temples and deities.
At large temples shuin-cho can be purchased for 1000-2000 yen, some famous temples offer their own shuin-cho.
You can get as much as 20-40 stamps in one notebook. You can get stamps from different temples.
There is an opinion that one should have different notebooks for Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples but you don’t need to worry about that.
Apart from temples, the notebooks are also available at stationary and book stores. They are sold online but it might be difficult to find them in a language other than Japanese.
Goshuin-cho selling website: Holly Hock http://www.goshuincho.com/ (Japanese only)
The way of receiving Goshuin
In Buddhist temples you can obtain shuin in places designated御朱印所 (Goshuin jo), 朱印所 (Shuin jo), 納経所 (Nokyo jo); in Shinto shrines its授与所 (Juyo jo), 社務所 (Shamu sho).
Japanese signs for places where you can obtain Goshuin
These signs are usually available only in Japanese, so look for resembling signs or just ask a Japanese visitor.
(Goshuin wa doko de morae masuka?)Where can I get goshuin stamp?
Getting shuin normally costs 300 yen, sometimes 500 yen. This sum is viewed as donation to the temple. "Goshuin please" should be understood, for Japanese equivalent see the phrase below.
(Goshuin o onegai shimasu)Please give me a shuin stamp.
Normally, they will give you an ink stamp right away but if there are a lot of people they will keep your notebook and tell you what time to pick it up.
Place where you can receive shuin at the Buddhist temple
Place where you can receive shuin at the Shinto shrine
Temples that don’t give Goshuin
Not necessarily all temples give Goshuin stamps; some don’t.
There are several schools in Japanese Buddhism, temples that belong to Jodo Shinshu (School of Pure Land) don’t give stamps.
For example Higashi Honganji Temple and Nishi Honganji Temple in Kyoto do not give shuin stamps.
Manners to note when receiving Goshuin
Unlike travel stamps, shuin has a religious meaning. That is why it is important to observe certain manners when receiving shuin.
- First, you need to go to worship service.
- Use only shuin-cho notebooks. Do not use usual notebooks or tourist stamp notebook.
- Prepare exact amount of money.
- Goshuin is sacred and should be treated accordingly.
- You don’t buy a seal but rather receive it, so don’t forget to say thank you.
- Goshuin is a proof of YOUR visit to the temple, so it should only belong to you; do not give it to other people.