Goshuin: The coolest Japanese souvenir

Goshuin: The coolest Japanese souvenir

When visiting Japan, it’s hard not to stock up on awesome souvenirs for friends and family back home. We’re talking patterned chopsticks, hello kitty themed everything (how about Hello Kitty toilet paper guys!) or a cute “kawaii” phone case.

If you’re after something unique, however, a cute iPhone case is just not going to cut it! I was recently in Japan (on my third trip there!), and I discovered a souvenir that most tourists haven’t even heard of.

Have you heard of collecting Goshuin as a souvenir?

Goshuincho translates to “Honourable Red Stamp Book.” It is a book which is used to collect stamps (called “goshuin”) from Temples and Shrines in Japan.

Traditionally, a Goshuincho is a book that pilgrims use to record the Temples or Shrines that they visit. It is “proof” of their visit to Temples or Shrines and their dedication.

These days, Goshuincho is not just for pilgrims. Young people in Japan now collect Goshuin now, and it is not uncommon to see young Japanese girls, or even the odd tourist collecting goshuin as a souvenir.

You’re probably thinking… MG, that’s nice, why would I care about this temple stamp book thingy?

The truth is, these stamps are fascinating to both locals and tourists because of the artistry that is involved in creating goshuin.

collecting goshuin as a souvenir

Are you visiting Japan? Check out my post with 10 tips on how to save money when visiting Tokyo!

How do I collect goshuin as a souvenir?

When you visit a shrine or temple, the monks will take your Goshuincho, and stamp it, with a stamp specific to that temple/ shrine. They will also include Calligraphy as part of your Goshuin. This is one of the main reasons why the Goshuin so popular. Many people still see calligraphy as a form of art, and it is something unique, especially if you are from a Western country.

If you end up collecting Goshuin as a souvenir in Japan, you’ll have a beautiful calligraphy collection from all the Shrines and Temples you’ve visited.

collecting goshuin as a souvenir

Tell me more! 

Firstly, you will need a book to collect your stamps in.

In theory, you could use a regular book, but some shrines or temples may refuse to stamp your book if you do this. If you choose to collect Goshuin, you should be using a Goshuin book. These are available at most temples or shrines for approximately 1,000 to 1,500 JPY (roughly $10 – 15 USD).

You can also buy them at select tourist stores or more of the traditional souvenir stores (usually if they sell other Japan specific souvenirs, like fans or Furoshiki. If you’re after something a little be different, I’d recommend you keep a look out for a Goshuincho at one of these stores.

collecting goshuin as a souvenir

Otherwise, you can purchase one at the Temple or Shrine you’re visiting. Some of the more popular or bigger temples or shrines have a variety of Goshuin books for you to choose. They will usually have a plain book and one with patterns.

I purchased mine from the Kōtoku-in temple in Kamakura; this is famous for the second largest Buddha in Japan. Because of this, I selected a Goshuincho with a Buddha on the front. It cost about 1,300 JPY but is definitely on the more decorative end of Goshuincho.

collecting goshuin as a souvenir

 

Once you pay for your Goshuin book, you take it to the Goshuin counter or window.

Now, one important thing I should mention is that having a Goshuin book is not all you need – each time you receive a Goshuin in your book, you will be asked to donate. The donation is usually about 300 JPY but can vary depending on the Shrine or Temple. Some of the more popular Shrines/ Temples may ask for up to 500 JPY.

The donation is something to keep in mind if you’re on a budget. Your seemingly budget friendly trips to temples or shrines could quickly add up in cost! If you’re after some money saving tips for when you’re in Tokyo, make sure to check out my blog post here!

Some temples/ shrines also have different stamps, and it is up to you to choose which one you want. Some visitors even opt for both stamps!

Click here to subscribe

Once you hand over your Goshuincho to the monk, they will set about stamping and writing in your book. Depending on the shrine or temple, if there’s a lot of people seeking Goshuin, you will be given a number and told when to return to pick up your book.

When you pick up your book, there will be a small piece of blotting paper. This is to make sure that the ink or stamp does not sink into the opposite page. Sometimes you’ll even receive an informational page, detailing the different parts of your Goshuin and what they mean.

collecting goshuin as a souvenir

Are you visiting Japan? Check out my post with 10 tips on how to save money when visiting Tokyo!

 

Other things you need to know about collecting Goshuin as a souvenir:

(1) Your Goshuincho is your collection of your temple/ shrine journey. It is not intended for you to gift to others, and thus it’s a souvenir for you. While no one would know if you did gift yours to someone else (and I guess nothing would stop you if you choose to do this), it is not something that is customary.

(2) While your Goshuincho may seem like “just a stamp book” you shouldn’t treat it this way. When you’re traveling, you may notice that there are stamp stations at various tourist sites, but do not use these to stamp your Goshuin pages!

While I’m all for making your own choices, the Goshuincho to many is a religious or belief based item. There have been stories of tourists who add regular tourist stamps themselves, only to be lectured by the monk who receives their book next!

collecting goshuin as a souvenir

 

(3) Some people also like to have a separate Goshuin book for temples and shrines. This is not 100% necessary and is a personal preference. No one will bat an eyelid if you use the same Goshuincho for both temples and shrines. Most Japanese practice both Shinto and Buddhism – they do not necessarily conflict with each other.

Not sure what the difference between a Shrine and a Temple is? Keep a look out for my upcoming post where I explain everything!

Despite all these seemingly “strict” rules around collecting goshuin as a souvenir, I would highly recommend travelers to Japan to collect Goshuin to remember their Japan travels. The Goshuin is a unique reminder of your time in Japan, and the collection of stamps and calligraphy are incredibly beautiful.

collecting goshuin as a souvenir

Are you visiting Japan?

Make sure you download our guide to the most useful Japanese phrases. I put this print-out together after seeing pages and pages of phrases that I just couldn’t wrap my head around!

Click the link below to download:

Click here to subscribe
Are you visiting Tokyo? Check out my post with 10 tips on how to save money when visiting Tokyo!

Follow:

11 Comments

  1. July 22, 2017 / 4:49 am

    Japan is one of the places where I really need to go soon. But I hadn’t heard of Goshuin before, what a great souvenir! Adding calligraphy makes it even more beautiful!

  2. July 22, 2017 / 8:22 am

    That’s a great idea. I didn’t know about it. It seems like a cost effective way to collect a souvenir at each place.

  3. July 22, 2017 / 9:49 am

    Having travelled to Japan numerous times, I never really got excited about goshuin. That was until I started to travel off the typical tourist routes. There is nothing more satisfying than stamping your own book in a temple where not many tourists tread. It sort of becomes addictive.

  4. July 23, 2017 / 3:27 am

    Ah that is so cool. So goshuin is basically a passport to collect the stamps of every temple you’ve been to. Japan has such a wicked vibe to it, I need to visit.

  5. July 23, 2017 / 1:52 pm

    I have never heard of Goshun. Thanks for sharing this information. It looks like an amazing souvenir of you journey.

  6. Victorian
    July 23, 2017 / 7:59 pm

    I’ve never heard about collecting stamps from temples but that sounds fantastic! What a wonderful memory. I wish Catholic Churches did that too in Europe and the like. I will do this if I ever visit!

  7. July 24, 2017 / 4:07 am

    I’ve been to Japan but haven’t heard about this. Thank you for letting me know. It’s such a cool thing, wish I knew. I will go back this end of year, I will make sure to include this.

  8. July 25, 2017 / 10:21 am

    This is my first time to learn about Goshuincho! Actually when I was travelling in Taiwan, I had the feeling that locals were also collecting some kind of these stamps. I always seemed to me little childish, but actually when you think about it – is is nice and sweet way to remember places.

  9. July 25, 2017 / 11:47 am

    This is cool! I had never heard of it. I would love to collect it for myself one day when I finally visit Japan.

  10. July 25, 2017 / 10:40 pm

    I have read a lot of things about Japan but havent read anything about this. Must really be the coolest guishon and those stamps as well. Great way for tourist or travelers to know this.

  11. July 28, 2017 / 9:19 pm

    I have to agree, this is the coolest possible souvenir I could get in Japan. Ill take note of this 🙂 I can’t wait to visit tempLes and collect stamps soon!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *